[This is part of a series by the Middle East Studies Pedagogy Initiative (MESPI) that presents selections of articles concerning the Middle East, Arab World, and current topics of interest. These articles were published in peer-reviewed academic journals of various disciplines. This series uses MESPI’s Peer-Reviewed Articles database to analyze and provide insight into trends in academia.
This is the third and final of three bouquets of articles on various aspects of the Arab uprisings in academic journal articles published during 2010–2020 in Middle East studies and related fields. This bouquet follows one on “Cultural Production during the Arab Uprisings,” and another on “Gender and Sexuality and the Arab Uprisings”. In this installment, we highlight those articles that include a spatial comparison between different entities, political dynamics, and discourses in the Arab uprisings.
Hopes and disappointments: regime change and support for democracy after the Arab Uprisings
By: M. Tahir Kilavuz, Nathanael Gratias Sumaktoyo
Published in Democratization Volume 27, Issue 5 (2020)
Abstract: What happened to citizens’ support for democracy after the Arab Uprisings? Did the support increase, stay the same, or actually decrease after all the protests, regime changes, and reforms? Which theories of citizens’ political attitudes best explain these dynamics? Analysing two waves of the Arab Barometer surveys and employing an item-response method that offers methodological improvements compared to previous studies, this article finds that support for democracy actually decreased in countries that successfully overthrew their dictators during the Uprisings. Following the arguments that emphasize the rational evaluations of citizens, it argues that in countries that had an experience with a freer political system, such as Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen, challenges of democratization and the poor political and economic performances of the governments left citizens disappointed. Despite the hopes that people had at the onset of the Uprisings, the disappointments generated by the unmet expectations eventually led to a decline in support for democracy.
Democratic disillusionment? Desire for democracy after the Arab uprisings
By: Niels Spierings
Published in International Political Science Review Volume 41, Issue 4 (2020)
Abstract: Have the Arab uprisings influenced the desire for democracy in the Middle East and North Africa? This study presents a systematic explanation of the different impact the uprisings had on people’s desire for democracy across the region. It applies the relatively new consequence-based theory of democratic attitudes, and integrates the notion of deprivation into it. The expectations derived from this framework are tested empirically by examining data from 45 public opinion surveys in 11 Middle East and North Africa countries (2001–2014) and combining them with a systematic country-level case comparison. The study shows that the desire for democracy drops mainly in countries of major protest and initial political liberalization, but no substantial democratization (e.g. Egypt, Morocco) indeed, and that a lack of major protest or initial reform (e.g. Algeria, Yemen) ‘prevents’ disillusionment. The seemingly exceptional Lebanese and Tunisian cases also show the mechanism holds for specific groups in society: Lebanese Sunnis and the poorest Tunisians.
NGO laws after the colour revolutions and the Arab spring: Nondemocratic regime strategies in Eastern Europe and the Middle East
By: Leah Gilbert, Payam Mohseni
Published in Mediterranean Politics Volume 25, Issue 2 (2020)
Abstract: How significant were popular mobilizations like the colour revolutions and the Arab Spring in raising legal regulatory barriers for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Eastern Europe and the Middle East? How do different types of nondemocratic regimes approach NGO laws and state-society relations? This paper investigates and provides a comparative analysis of the NGO regulatory environment of nondemocratic regimes in Eastern Europe and the Middle East from 1995 to 2013, based on an original dataset measuring the severity of laws for the registration and operation of civic groups. We examine whether the uprisings instigated the passage of legal initiatives designed to curb NGO activism in each region, and assess whether patterns emerge based on differences in nondemocratic regime types. We determined that while NGO regulations have largely increased in Eastern Europe, they have actually declined in the Middle East on average. Moreover, greater NGO regulations exist in authoritarian and closed regimes that approach civil society by erecting clear legal blockades to civic activism. In contrast, hybrid regimes employ more-intricate legal strategies in order to raise the costs of entering and working in the NGO sector without necessarily overtly stifling civic activism.
Explaining divergent transformation paths in Tunisia and Egypt: The role of inter-elite trust
By: Mazen Hassan, Jasmin Lorch, Annette Ranko
Published in Mediterranean Politics Volume 25, Issue 5 (2020)
Abstract: This article analyses why the political transformations following the Arab Spring took different paths in Egypt and Tunisia. Based on data from field interviews conducted between 2012 and 2018 as well as press analyses, we argue that a strong factor why Tunisia was more successful in establishing democracy is that it had a higher level of inter-elite trust. Moreover, we show that the establishment of inter-elite trust depends on the presence of functioning trust-building arenas during the transition and the early democratic consolidation period. To investigate the role of inter-elite trust, we develop a theoretical-analytical framework, drawing on Arab Spring literature, transition theory, scholarship on democratic consolidation, and research on trust.
Between Exclusivism and Inclusivism: The Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood’s Divided Reponses to the “Arab Spring”
By: Joas Wagemakers
Published in Middle East Law and Governance Volume 12, Issue 1 (2020)
Abstract: This article focuses on how and why some Jordanian Muslim Brothers have engaged in relatively exclusive, Islamist ways of confronting the regime during the “Arab Spring,” while others adopted a more inclusive, national strategy in the same period. As such, this article not only contributes to our knowledge of divisions within the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood, but also shows how this can impact Islamist-regime relations in the Arab world. It argues that the organization as a whole initially wanted to exploit the uprisings in the region through a relatively exclusive, Islamist approach to the regime, but that others within the organization disagreed with this method as the “Arab Spring” proved mostly unsuccessful. Aware of the dangers of provoking the state from a position of increased isolation, these members advocated a more inclusive attitude toward the regime and others. While both groups were ultimately unsuccessful, the latter at least survived as a legal entity, while the Muslim Brotherhood lost its official presence in the kingdom because the regime was able to exploit the existing divisions within the organization.
Party competition in the Middle East: spatial competition in the post-Arab Spring era
By: Ali Çarkoğlu, André Krouwel, Kerem Yıldırım
Published in British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies Volume 46, Issue 3 (2019)
Abstract: This paper charts the nature of political cleavage between major parties in post-Arab Spring elections in five Mediterranean region countries, with data from online opt-in surveys. We compare the Moroccan elections, held under a consolidated authoritarian regime, with the transitional cases of Tunisia and Egypt as well as the more mature democracies of Turkey and Israel. Voter opinions are obtained on 30 salient issues, and parties and voters are aligned along two dimensions. We trace country-specific cleavage patterns and reflections of party system maturity in these five countries. The cases of Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco reveal that in less settled cleavage structures there is little congruence between vote propensities for parties and agreement levels with policy positions compared to the more institutionalized democracies of Israel and Turkey where voters exhibit a higher likelihood to vote for a party as the distance between the voter and the party in the policy space gets smaller.
Down and Out: Founding Elections and Disillusionment with Democracy in Egypt and Tunisia
By: Sharan Grewal, Steve L. Monroe
Published in Comparative Politics Volume 51, Issue 4 (2019)
Abstract: Which electoral losers become the most disillusioned with democracy following the first free and fair elections? Exploiting surveys before and after founding elections in post-Arab Spring Egypt and Tunisia, we find that the most disillusioned losers were those residing in areas where the losing parties were strongest. We argue that expectations matter. Losers whose parties are strong locally tend to overestimate their popularity nationally and thus become more disillusioned after the first elections. Beyond these attitudinal results, we find that these areas witnessed a greater increase in support for candidates from former autocratic regimes in subsequent elections. These findings clarify subnational variation in electoral losers’ attitudes towards democracy. They suggest that decentralization may keep otherwise disillusioned losers invested in democracy.
Radicalism on the Periphery: History, Collective Memory, and the Cultural Resonance of Jihadist Ideology in Tunisia
By: Michael Marcusa
Published in Comparative Politics Volume 51, Issue 2 (2019)
Abstract: This article explores sub-national variation in jihadist Salafist mobilization through a comparative analysis of two Tunisian interior towns: Sidi Bouzid and Metlaoui. After the Arab Spring, while Sidi Bouzid emerged as a bastion of jihadist Salafism and Islamic State foreign fighter recruitment, the movement failed to gain broad-based legitimacy in Metlaoui. On the basis of the comparison, this study introduces a new explanation for the variation in jihadist mobilization: state-building legacies and collective memory. During the 20th century, Sidi Bouzid and Metlaoui were subjected to divergent processes of forced political incorporation that this study argues have had implications for how contemporary citizens respond to jihadist rhetoric. The final part of the article discusses how this insight informs the study of jihadist Salafism in other contexts.
Shaking off the neoliberal shackles: “democratic emergence” and the negotiation of democratic knowledge in the Middle East North Africa context
By: Jeff Bridoux
Published in Democratization Volume 26, Issue 5 (2019)
Abstract: There is a general assumption in democracy promotion that liberal democracy is the panacea that will solve all political and economic problems faced by developing countries. Using the concept of “good society” as analytical prism, the analysis shows that while there is a rhetorical agreement as to what the “good society” entails, democracy promotion practices fail to allow for recipients’ inclusion in the negotiation and delivery of the “good society”. Contrasting US and Tunisian discourses on the “good society”, the article argues that democracy promotion practices are underpinned by neoliberal parameters borne out from a reliance on the transition paradigm, which in turn leave little room to democracy promotion recipients to formulate knowledge claims supporting the emergence of alternative conceptions of the “good society”. In contrast, the article opens up a reflective pathway to a negotiated democratic knowledge, which would reside in a paradigmatic change that consists in the abandonment of the transition paradigm in favour of a “democratic emergence” paradigm.
Is there difference in democracy promotion? A comparison of German and US democracy assistance in transitional Tunisia
By: Leonie Holthaus
Published in Democratization Volume 26, Issue 7 (2019)
Abstract: Since the 1990s, comparative scholars and constructivists have recognized the universally liberal character of democracy promotion and yet continued the analysis of difference in this area. Mainly in studies of German and US democracy promotion, constructivists have demonstrated the recurring and difference-generating impact of ideational factors. In this article, I hence assume the likeliness of difference and address the question of how we can analyse and explain those differences through a comparison of German and US democracy assistance in transitional Tunisia. I conceive of Germany and the US as a dissimilar pair and adopt a broad perspective to uncover differences at the diplomatic level and between and within the respective approaches to democracy assistance in Tunisia. Theoretically, I argue that national role conceptions hardly impact democracy assistance in a clear manner, and that roles are renegotiated in the process. I rather focus on liberal and reform liberal conceptions of democracy, which shape perceptions of the local context, and democracy assistance agencies different organizational cultures, which impact civil society support. Finally, I account for transnational dialogue and coordination as a factor mitigating differences in democracy promotion.
Not the only game in towns: explaining changes in municipal councils in post-revolutionary Tunisia
By: Janine A. Clark, Emanuela Dalmasso, Ellen Lust
Published in Democratization Volume 26, Issue 8 (2019)
Abstract: This study sheds light on the relationship between local and national elites during political transitions. Examining local councils in post-revolutionary Tunisia (2011–2013), it examines why and when the composition of councils changed in the absence of local elections. The study yields two important lessons. First, changes in councils resulted from a power struggle between national and local elites. Councils were more likely to remain in place when local parties and unions helped council members resist pressures from above. The interplay of local and national actors, and not the council’s competencies, explains when changes took place. Second, all councils became politicized in the process. Far from being caretaker councils impartially addressing local needs, the councils were institutions playing important roles in the struggles between local and national political elites. Councils were arenas in which political power, and notions of legitimate representation, were contested in the absence of elections. The argument is supported by quantitative analyses of original data and four comparative case studies based on qualitative fieldwork. The findings highlight the importance of local councils in transition processes and provide a basis for further work exploring local-national engagement in democratization.
From the Fragments Up: Municipal Margins of Maneuver in Syria and Tunisia
By: Lana Salman, Bernadette Baird-Zars
Published in Middle East Law and Governance Volume 11, Issue 2 (2019)
Abstract: Most studies of the Arab uprisings and their aftermaths focus on national-level political processes, neglecting changes at the municipal level. The few studies of municipalities that do exist tend to treat municipalities either as corruption-prone institutions exploited by local elites, or else as areas in need of intervention to make them function properly. We argue that municipalities are an overlooked site of political change—both spatially and temporally—that began prior to the uprisings but accelerated in their aftermath. Drawing on original empirical material from Tunisia and Syria between 2007 and 2014, we highlight two changing dimensions of municipal governance: how municipalities have sought to expand their power by stretching into new areas; and how, since the uprisings, municipalities have taken up new regulatory and enforcement roles in the wake of central state retreat.
To support this analysis, we utilize on-the-ground interviews and fieldwork in Tunisia and off-site interviews and aerial analyses of urban growth in northern Syria. We find that, first, city governments are moving into the spaces where national actors are absent, transforming municipalities into spaces for meaningful political engagement (Tunisia) and the allocation of resources (Syria). Second, municipalities have gained greater autonomy in the arenas of service delivery and planning. This increase in municipal power does not represent a break from pre-uprising practices, but rather a continuation and perhaps acceleration of the politicization and expansion of municipal authority that began pre-2011.
Relations Between Qatar and Saudi Arabia After the Arab Spring
By: Abdul Rezak Bilgin
Published in Contemporary Arab Affairs Volume 11, Issue 3 (2018)
Abstract: The Arab Spring initiated a new era in the history of the Middle East and significantly shifted regional dynamics. It profoundly marked the history of the region and affected relations between Middle Eastern countries. Qatar–Saudi Arabia relations have likewise been profoundly impacted by it. This study focuses on how the Arab Spring affected relations between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and on how the regional power struggle and rivalry between Riyadh and Doha were exacerbated during that period when disagreements and clashes escalated and deepened between both countries. It also emphasizes the causes of tensions that emerged during the period of the Arab Spring between both states. Using classical realism as a theoretical framework in approaching the issues at hand, the study begins by outlining the historical background to Qatar–Saudi Arabia relations. It then describes the policies of Qatar and Saudi Arabia towards the Arab Spring and explores the problem areas in their bilateral relations. Finally, the sanctions imposed against Qatar are also discussed.
Islamist and Non-Islamist Currents and the Struggle for Post-Gaddafi Libya
By: Youssef Mohammad Sawani
Published in Contemporary Arab Affairs Volume 11, Issue 1-2 (2018)
Abstract: This paper examines the origin and the relationship between Islamist and non-Islamist political trends in Libya, highlighting the development of the contestation between the two before and after the fall of Gaddafi’s rule. The relationship appears to be that of a contestation between Islamists and liberals but this may be misleading. Islamists are not united but they share an adherence to the establishment of a Muslim society and some form of a khilafa. However, non-Islamists may not easily be identified as “on current.” Indeed, the “current” includes an array of political factions of various dispensations with some not necessarily subscribing to liberal models of democracy. Some belong to pre-Gaddafi-era political parties or were political and human rights’ activists during Gaddaﬁ’s reign. They range from leftist, nationalist, and liberal orientations to populist Arab nationalist forces (including the Ba’th, Pan-Arabists, and others with socialist or communist orientations). When the uprising took place in 2011, the positions each trend took differed before some tactical unity was deemed necessary. When the regime fell, however, differences remerged and became more evident once the transitional structures were put in place. Just before and during the first elections in 2012, Islamists broke ranks with their struggle comrades and fired their cannons at the leaders of the liberal, nationalist, and other elements within the non-Islamist orientations. Islam then became crucial in political expression and rhetoric, especially for Islamist actors. Focusing on the development of this contestation, this paper analyzes the reaction of both Islamist and non-Islamist trends to the policies and tactics adopted by each side in the aftermath of the 2011 uprising and the post-Gaddafi phase. It suggests that although ideology, specifically references to Islam, became crucial in the political contention between Islamists and non-Islamists, the cleavage was not entirely ideological, as both trends considered the Islamic identity of Libya central to their political programs. The interviews with leading representatives of both trends that the author conducted for the purpose of writing this article confirm such a view on the role of ideology in the contestation. As the following discussion indicates, ideology is evidently part and parcel of each sides’ tools, ready to be employed against the other. However, when it does not suit all their purposes, they claim ideology has no role, offering insights into the instrumental and tactical approach to the ongoing contestation of both sides. The article therefore examines the struggle between the two factions as a political competition for the control of resources and positions of power, yet it also argues that ideology and ideas have a role to play, as they constitute the instruments deployed in this struggle, which has, with foreign involvement and backing of different sides, reduced Libya to a “failed state.” In fact although ideological contraposition figures in the contestation, political factionalism and contention in post-2011 were actually fuelled by political factors related to the struggle over access to power and resources, which are instrumental in enabling each side to shape the future state and its political order according to their plans. The struggle between Islamists and non-Islamists may have been the most visible, but it is certainly not the most significant factor in explaining the political dynamics and contention in the country since the fall of Gaddafi.
How authoritarian rulers seek to legitimize repression: framing mass killings in Egypt and Uzbekistan
By: Mirjam Edel, Maria Josua
Published in Democratization Volume 25, Issue 5 (2018)
Abstract: How do authoritarian rulers legitimate repressive actions against their own citizens? Although most research depicts repression and legitimation as opposed strategies of political rule, justified coercion against some groups may generate legitimacy in the eyes of other parts of the population. Building upon this suggested link between legitimation and repression, this article studies the justifications of mass killings. To this end, framing theory is combined with recent research on the domestic and international dimensions of authoritarian rule. We contend that frames are directed towards specific audiences at home and abroad. Moreover, given the common threats at the global level and the diffusion of repressive tactics, we assume that learning processes influence discursive justifications of repression in authoritarian regimes. We provide an analysis of government rhetoric by comparing the protest crackdowns of Rabi’a ‘Adawiya Square in Egypt and Fergana Valley in Uzbekistan, taking into account the audiences and the sources of the frames that justify repression. In both cases, we find the terrorism frame to emerge as dominant.
The intra-GCC crises: mapping GCC fragmentation after 2011
By: Cinzia Bianco; Gareth Stansfield
Published in International Affairs Volume 94, Issue 3 (2018)
Abstract: If shared security perceptions were the foundation of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), 2011 might be analysed as the watershed year in which the GCC began to fragment from within. Both the 2014 and 2017 intra-GCC crises were manifestations of conflicting security perceptions, formed across the GCC countries in and since 2011. Through an in-depth analysis of the events and of the subsequent reaction of the GCC governments in terms of discourse and foreign policy, we distinguish three different categories of conceptualization. First, the governments of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates perceived domestic protests as an ‘intermestic’ threat—triggered by the intersection of the international and domestic levels. Second, the leaders of Oman and Kuwait conceptualized protests in their countries as manageable domestic insecurity, rather than as fully-fledged externally orchestrated events—arguably because they did not perceive a direct danger to their stability and legitimacy. Finally, it can be argued that the government of Qatar did not see any real danger in the protests but instead viewed them as an opportunity to expand Doha’s regional influence, arguably at Riyadh’s expense. Unpacking the fundamental factors shaping such perceptions is the key to finding the appropriate framework for analysing GCC security in the future.
Leader Language and Political Survival Strategies
By: Leah Windsor, Nia Dowell, Alistair Windsor, John Kaltner
Published in International Interactions Volume 44, Issue 2 (2018)
Abstract: Authoritarian leaders’ language provides clues to their survival strategies for remaining in office. This line of inquiry fits within an emerging literature that refocuses attention from state-level features to the dynamic role that individual heads of state and government play in international relations, especially in authoritarian regimes. The burgeoning text-as-data field can be used to deepen our understanding of the nuances of leader survival and political choices; for example, language can serve as a leading indicator of leader approval, which itself is a good predictor of leader survival. In this paper, we apply computational linguistics tools to an authoritarian leader corpus consisting of 102 speeches from nine leaders of countries across the Middle East and North Africa between 2009 and 2012. We find systematic differences in the language of these leaders, which help advance a more broadly applicable theory of authoritarian leader language and tenure.
EU democracy promotion and the dominance of the security–stability nexus
By: Assem Dandashly
Published in Mediterranean Politics Volume 23, Issue 1 (2018)
Abstract: The article analyses the EU’s approach for democracy promotion in Tunisia and Egypt in the wake of the Arab uprisings. Contrary to arguments that focus either on the EU institutions and member states or on the domestic policies of the targeted countries and see the post-2010 EU democracy promotion strategies as a continuation of previous programs, the article follows a more eclectic approach. By considering changes both at the EU and the international level, it argues that the EU appears as a pragmatic yet more flexible and reactive international actor. After 2010, the EU frames for democracy promotion have changed and are differentiated in the two MENA countries. Crucial to this cognitive change is the EU Global Strategy (EUGS) and the role that domestic elites have played in the two case studies.
A common transnational agenda? Communication network and discourse of political-Salafists on Twitter
By: Annette Ranko, Justyna Nedza, Nikolai Röhl
Published in Mediterranean Politics Volume 23, Issue 2 (2018)
Abstract: Employing social network analysis, this article investigates the transnational communication network and discourse of political-Salafists on social media. It examines whether political-Salafists across the MENA region have a common sociopolitical and geopolitical agenda, and whether – given the recent shift of some political-Salafists towards violence – their discourse and communication network can still be distinguished from that of the jihadists. The analysis finds that political-Salafists do not share a common agenda but that their discourse and communication network display three transnational gravity centres: a revisionist, a status quo-oriented and an ostracized pro-Sisi gravity centre. Only the revisionist gravity centre advocates violence. Its discourse, however, remains clearly set apart from that of the jihadists.
The role of human development in the transition to democracy after the Arab Spring
By: Grigorios Rapanos
Published in Mediterranean Politics Volume 23, Issue 3 (2018)
Abstract: In this article, we examine how human development, as expressed by indicators, like life expectancy, infant mortality, income and gender inequality and literacy, may affect the transition to democracy of the countries that experienced the Arab Spring. More specifically, we attempt to explain why Tunisia has had a rather smooth transition from dictatorship to democracy, in contrast to other countries where the uprisings either failed or led to civil wars (Syria and Libya) or there was a return to autocracy (Egypt). Our analysis shows that Tunisia had a much better performance in all human development indicators, in comparison with the other countries, which may explain why this country has not backtracked and despite the difficulties is on the road to democracy.
The EU and Islamist parties in Tunisia and Egypt after the Arab uprisings: A story of selective engagement
By: Benedetta Voltolini, Silvia Colombo
Published in Mediterranean Politics Volume 23, Issue 1 (2018)
Abstract: This article argues that the new EU’s selective engagement with Islamist parties in its Southern neighbourhood following the Arab uprisings is the result of a partial shift in the EU’s frame used to understand political Islam, combined with a form of pragmatism that puts a premium on finding interlocutors in the region. Using the case studies of Tunisia and Egypt, it shows that the EU has replaced its previous monolithic conception of political Islam with an understanding that is more sensitive to differences among Islamists. This opens the door to some forms of engagement with those actors that renounce violence and demonstrate their commitment to work within the confines of democratic rules, while violent strands of political Islam and conservative groups remain at arm’s length.
Managing Contention: Divergent Government Responses to Youth Protests in the Arab World
By: Kressen Thyen
Published in Middle East Law and Governance Volume 10, Issue 1 (2018)
Abstract: Why do some authoritarian governments respond beneficently to political protest while others opt for repression? This article argues that beneficent government responses in the form of concessions or institutional inclusion are fostered by three interrelated mechanisms working at three distinct levels: institutionalization of political protest within the polity, external certification of protest demands by legally legitimized authorities, and interest polarization between protesting groups and the government. Empirical comparison of government responses to youth protests before and during the 2011 uprisings in Morocco and Egypt proves that the divergent strategies in the two countries were not the result of spontaneous decision-making in times of heightened regime contention. Rather, they mirror established patterns of protest politics that are relatively resistant to ad-hoc manipulations. By extending the focus beyond a particular episode of contention, this study offers important insights into government-challenger relations in authoritarian regimes.
Democratization in Unlikely Places: Comparative Lessons from the Latin American Experience
By: Kenneth M. Roberts
Published in Middle East Law and Governance Volume 10, Issue 3 (2018)
Abstract: The Latin American experience at the end of the 20th century demonstrates that democratic regimes can be established and stabilized in “unlikely” places that would not appear to have the requisite “preconditions” for democracy as conventionally theorized. The region may thus provide insights into the prospects for democracy in other parts of the world, such as the MENA region, that also lack the traditional correlates of democracy. An understanding of democracy’s institutional roots in deep societal conflicts, rather than political consensus, civic cultures, or economic prosperity, is an essential starting point for such cross-regional perspectives.
Ctrl-Alt-Revolt? Online and Offline Networks during the 2011 Egyptian Uprising
By: Elizabeth R. Nugent, Chantal E. Berman2
Published in Middle East Law and Governance Volume 10, Issue 1 (2018)
Abstract: Analyses of the 2011 Egyptian uprising assign a significant mobilizing role to the interpersonal networks created through Facebook and Twitter. However, these studies fail to investigate online networks in comparison with more traditional “offline” networks, which are similarly theorized to mobilize members to protest participation. In this paper, we analyze nationally representative Arab Barometer survey data from Egypt 2011 to compare the mobilizing effects of memberships in four different types of networks: online, union, community, and religious. We test whether these networks were distinct and operated in competition, or overlapping and operated in tandem to mobilize Egyptians to protest. We demonstrate that different networks mobilized different segments of the population, consistent with theories about the negative revolutionary coalition necessary for successful uprisings. We also show that multiple network membership increases protest propensity, and that individuals at the intersection of online networks and community group networks, such as those formed through membership in charity groups or sports clubs, are most likely to engage in revolutionary protest. These results speak to an important interactive effect between online and offline networks in terms of facilitating successful revolutionary uprisings.
The Puzzle of Democratic Divergence in the Arab World: Theory Confronts Experience in Egypt and Tunisia
By: Eva Bellin
Published in Political Science Quarterly Volume 133, Issue 3 (2018)
Abstract: Eva Bellin explores the divergent political trajectories pursued by Egypt and Tunisia after the Arab Spring. She argues that factors such as socio-economic development, mass culture, and prior regime character were less consequential in shaping the chances of democratic transition than were factors such as civil society, the character of the military, and leadership.
Political parties in MENA: their functions and development
By: Raymond A. Hinnebusch
Published in British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies Volume 44, Issue 2 (2017)
Abstract: This article provides an overview of the development of parties and party systems in the MENA region from early oligarchic pluralism to the mass single-party systems of the populist era and the limited multi-party experiments of the 1990s era of political liberalization. The survey shows how parties develop in parallel with the deepening of politicization and become nearly indispensable adjuncts in the construction of political order. The article then examines parties in the post-2010 period, with case studies of Turkey, Egypt, and Tunisia demonstrating how very different configurations of party development dramatically impact on regime trajectories, ranging from democratization to hybrid regimes.
Creating the enemy, constructing the threat: the diffusion of repression against the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East
By: May Darwich
Published in Democratization Volume 24, Issue 7 (2017)
Abstract: On 25 December 2013, the military-backed government in Egypt declared the Muslim Brotherhood to be a terrorist organization. A few months later, the Saudi Kingdom followed suit and attempted to build a regional coalition to counter this constructed enemy. Although the Saudi Kingdom, acting as an aspiring regional autocratic power, exerted pressure to compel other regimes to follow its lead, the recipient states varied in their willingness to converge. Whereas the United Arab Emirates followed the Saudi lead, Jordan, Kuwait, and Bahrain resisted the diffusion of repression against the Muslim Brotherhood to their domestic spheres. This article examines this variation in the (non-)convergence of repressive policies as an outcome of diffusion. While most explanations of how autocratic policies diffuse focus on either ideology or interest as drivers of state behaviour, this article provides a nuanced understanding of this phenomenon. Based on a neoclassical realist approach, I explore the variation in the convergence with fellow autocrats as the result of interaction between regional interests and regime autonomy vis-à-vis societal groups. By looking at autocratic diffusion of repression as a process lying at the intersection of regional and domestic spheres, this article contributes to the literature on the international diffusion of authoritarianism.
Political militaries in popular uprisings: A comparative perspective on the Arab Spring
By: Kevin Koehler
Published in International Political Science Review Volume 38, Issue 3 (2017)
Abstract: What determines whether militaries will defect from authoritarian incumbents during regime crises? Variance in military behavior in the Arab Spring has given rise to a debate around this issue. This article highlights weaknesses of the dominant explanation and develops an alternative account of military behavior in ‘endgame scenarios’. If militaries are politicized institutions that play a major role in regulating access to power under authoritarianism, they are more likely to intervene during normal times, but less likely to defect during mass uprisings. I quantitatively test this argument against data on military coups between 1975 and 2000 drawing on a new variable that allows me to explicitly model the impact of major regime crises. I illustrate the emergence of different forms of political–military relations and their consequences in the Arab Spring by drawing on evidence from Syria, Egypt, and Tunisia.
The Fiscal Politics of Rebellious Grievance in the Arab World: Egypt and Jordan in Comparative Perspective
By: Pete W. Moore
Published in The Journal of Development Studies Volume 53, Issue 10 (2017)
Abstract: In the aftermath of the 2011 protests, narrow economic arguments for revolt have proliferated. This essay broadens the debate by arguing that states’ latent fiscal weakness is an important source of enduring rebellious grievance in the Arab World. The essay makes this claim through a comparison of fiscal decline and policy response in Jordan and Egypt. Both states have endured fiscal crises and periodic revolt starting in the late 1970s. Both regimes attempted to manage deepening fiscal weakness through similar coping policies, searching for new sources of revenue and revising public spending. These measures failed to reverse the decline. Instead, new sources of revenue and shifts in spending deepened inequality in new ways, lowered capacities to curtail public-private corruption, and entrenched labour insecurity. In other words, it is the politics of fiscal weakness which explain the prominence of socio-economic grievance voiced before, during, and after 2011.
Qatar and the UAE: Exploring Divergent Responses to the Arab Spring
By: David B. Roberts
Published in The Middle East Journal Volume 71, Issue 4 (2017)
Abstract: During the Arab Spring, Qatar tended to support the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates, while the United Arab Emirates opposed them. This article argues that, despite these states’ ostensible similarities, their different political structures fostered contrasting experiences with an ascendant political Islam. Subsequently, the policies reflected each leader’s approach to statecraft: Abu Dhabi crown prince Muhammad bin Zayid Al Nahyan, who steers Emirati foreign policy, reacted with a security-focused check on such groups, while the former Qatari emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani sought to build relations with them.
Explaining the Arab Uprisings: transformations in Comparative Perspective
By: Steven Heydemanna
Published in Mediterranean Politics Volume 21, Issue 1 (2016)
Abstract: Drawing on the research presented by contributors to this special issue, this article assesses the analytic opportunities that emerge when the Arab uprisings are conceptualized as moments of transformation rather than as incipient, flawed or failed transitions to democracy. Highlighting critical issues that cut across and link the experiences of political relevant elites (PREs) and mobilized publics in the cases of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen, it identifies three sets of issues that warrant further comparative research: the effects of stateness and patterns of state-society relations on the trajectory of Arab uprisings; the role of identity politics and non- state forms of solidarity as drivers of political mobilization and collective action, and the impact of these forms of collective action on possibilities for establishing stable, legitimate forms of governance; and the limits of civil societies and civic sectors in influencing transformational processes.
Exclusionary and Non-Consensual Transitions Versus Inclusive and Consensual Democratizations: The Cases of Egypt and Tunisia
By: Inmaculada Szmolka
Published in Arab Studies Quarterly Volume 37, Issue 1 (2015)
Abstract: The article analyzes the democratic transitions in Tunisia and Egypt, after the so-called “Arab Spring.” The working hypothesis is that the model of transition influences the result of democratization processes. The article is organized in three sections. The first one puts forward a theoretical and methodological framework, which includes a definition and classification of political regimes, a typology of the processes of political change and suggests models of democratic transition. Second, the models of transition in Tunisia and Egypt are compared in terms of four analytical dimensions: leadership of the transition, competition and interaction between political actors, consensus over the transition process, and the popular mobilization and the participation of the civil society. The third section assesses the outcomes of the research and concludes that the exclusion of political forces and the intervention of non-accountable actors can determine the result of democratic transitions (Egypt). In contrast, the agreements between political actors and the concessions of a predominant party can bring about a successful transition, even in a polarized scenario (Tunisia).
Change and Continuity after the Arab Uprising: The Consequences of State Formation in Arab North African States
By: Raymond Hinnebusch
Published in British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies Volume 42, Issue 1 (2015)
Abstract: This article provides a comparative macro-level overview of political development in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt. It examines their evolution from the colonial period through several distinct phases, showing how differences in their origins were followed over time by a certain convergence towards a common post-populist form of authoritarianism, albeit still distinguished according to monarchic and republican legitimacy principles. On this basis, it assesses how past state formation trajectories made the republics more vulnerable to the Arab uprising but also what differences they make for the prospects of post-uprising democratisation. While in Morocco the monarch’s legitimacy allows it to continue divide-and-rule politics, in Egypt the army’s historic central role in politics has been restored, while in Tunisia the trade union movement has facilitated a greater democratic transition.
The Project of Advanced Regionalisation in Morocco: Analysis of a Lampedusian Reform
By: Raquel Ojeda García, Ángela Suárez Collado
Published in British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies Volume 42, Issue 1 (2015)
Abstract: This article examines the project of advanced regionalisation in Morocco, in which the King Mohammed VI plays a key role. Through a comparative analysis of the adjustments and resiliencies of the project, contrasted with previous regionalisation reforms, the article contends that contention dynamics in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt have had a relevant impact on the way in which the project made its way in the Moroccan institutional sphere. The article finds that the eruption of the Arab Uprisings in North Africa and protests in Morocco has been a key factor in paradoxically fostering the king’s power, allowing him to consolidate himself as the unique driving force behind the reform of regional administration.
From Reform to Resistance: Universities and Student Mobilisation in Egypt and Morocco before and after the Arab Uprisings
By: Florian Kohstall
Published in British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies Volume 42, Issue 1 (2015)
Abstract: University students played a pivotal role in the Arab uprisings in 2011. This article explores the link between reform policies and social mobilisation through a comparison of university reforms and student protests in Egypt and Morocco. It argues that both—the fabrication of social policies and the formation of protest—are rooted in the specific political configuration of authoritarian regimes. Egypt and Morocco have both embarked on internationalising higher education, but the monarchy was more successful in embracing change through a more pluralistic type of governance. Hence, Morocco was able to escape the disruptive dynamics of the uprising, unlike Egypt, which was more reluctant to establish a new type of governance.
Explaining Divergent Revolutionary Coalitions: Regime Strategies and the Structuring of Participation in the Tunisian and Egyptian Revolutions
By: Mark Beissinger, Amaney Jamal, Kevin Mazur
Published in Comparative Politics Volume 48, Issue 1 (2015)
Abstract: This study seeks to explain why the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions mobilized different constituencies. Using original survey data, we establish that while participants in both revolutions prioritized economic concerns and corruption over civil and political freedoms, Tunisian revolutionaries were significantly younger and more diverse in class composition than the predominantly middle-aged and middle-class participants in the Egyptian Revolution. Tunisian revolutionaries were also less likely to be members of civil society associations and more likely to rely on the internet as their source of information during the revolution. We explain these differences by reference to disparate incumbent regime strategies for coping with similar structural pressures for state contraction and political reform, which created different patterns of societal grievance and opposition mobilizing structures in their wake.
Secular Autocracy vs. Sectarian Democracy? Weighing Reasons for Christian Support for Regime Transition in Syria and Egypt
By: Mark Farhaa, Salma Mousa
Published in Mediterranean Politics Volume 20, Issue 2 (2015)
Abstract: With the spectre of post-Spring Islamist rule looming, Christians in Syria and Egypt were forced to choose between quasi-secular autocracy and sectarian populism. The status quo ante under al-Assad and Mubarak, though democratically deficient, temporarily contained civil hostilities and afforded Christians with a modicum of secular protection and even prosperity, the degree of which sheds light on the relative absence of Syrian Christian protestors and the salient Coptic presence during the Egyptian revolution. This article explores how socio-economic and religious peripheral designations intersected with state policy to determine political (in) action amongst Christian minorities in two crucial countries of the region.
Covering Libya: A Framing Analysis of Al Jazeera and BBC Coverage of the 2011 Libyan Uprising and NATO Intervention
By: Sumaya Al Nahed
Published in Middle East Critique Volume 24, Issue 3 (2015)
Abstract: This article examines the broadcast coverage by Al Jazeera and the BBC of the 2011 uprising in Libya and the ensuing NATO intervention in the country. Through a comparative analysis of Al Jazeera Arabic, Al Jazeera English, BBC Arabic, and BBC World News, the article evaluates the impact of these two networks’ political contexts on their coverage. Both Al Jazeera and the BBC are based in countries that were active participants in the 2011 NATO intervention, Al Jazeera in Qatar and the BBC in the UK. Thus, the 2011 Libyan uprising and NATO intervention presents a prime opportunity to evaluate how the political contexts of these two networks affected their coverage. The sample under study covered a period of roughly four weeks and was analyzed by means of a framing analysis, whereby framing refers to the way a news story is packaged, organized, and narrated. Ultimately, the study found that the coverage of both these networks was aligned with the national and foreign policy interests of their home countries, making their political contexts the main influence on their news agendas. News frames across the sample reflected coverage that was largely supportive of the aims of opposition and the intervention.
The Martyrs’ Revolutions: The Role of Martyrs in the Arab Spring
By:Elizabeth Buckner, Lina Khatib
Published in British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies Volume 41, Issue 4 (2014)
Abstract: This article examines popular representations of modern martyrs in the Arab world, comparing national models of martyrdom representations prior to the Arab Spring, namely those from Iran, Palestine and Hizbullah in Lebanon, to portrayals of martyrs during and after the Arab Spring. It argues that the Arab Spring brought forth a new model for the martyr in the Arab world, which (a) moves the production of martyrs’ images from the state to the citizen; (b) personalises portrayals of martyrs through stories of their personal lives; and, (c) transitions from portrayals of victimisation to empowerment and agency. In the Arab Spring model, the martyr is both a symbol and narrative framework used to galvanise opposition to state regimes. Unlike the pre-Arab Spring models, which portrayed the martyr’s death as an honourable sacrifice for the larger national or religious community, the Arab Spring martyr is portrayed as a needless victim in the fight for the universal values of dignity and human rights, as both a product and producer of meaning associated with agency. As the meaning of the ‘martyr’ continues to evolve in the post-Arab Spring era, it has come to represent the power of the people more broadly.
Perspectives for change in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria: the military factor and implications of previous authoritarian regimes
By: Federico Battera
Published in Contemporary Arab Affairs Volume 7, Issue 4 (2014)
Abstract: This article argues that differences in Arab authoritarian regimes were mainly linked to the relationship between the state, the political party in power and the military. By exploring such differences in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria prior to the 2011 crisis, they are explained in the context of the political changes that ensued in the wake of the crisis. How the army played the dual role of instigating change while impeding it at crucial points in the transitional process is described. The mutual lack of autonomy between the state, the party and the military appears to have been a key factor in impeding change, whereas a clear separation of the functions of these institutions was more likely to enable political change to come about.
The Politics of Foreign Aid and the European Neighbourhood Policy Post-Arab Spring: ‘More for More’ or Less of the Same?
By: Federica Bicchi
Published in Mediterranean Politics Volume 19, Issue 3 (2014)
Abstract: This contribution assesses the practices of EU aid to Arab countries in the Mediterranean in the post-Arab spring context, and in particular the role of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). It looks at the institutional practices relevant to EU foreign policy vis-à-vis Arab countries, the main ENP policy tenets (often summarized in the ‘more for more’ motto) and the financial practices of committing and disbursing funds on the ENP Instrument. It shows that while there has been a proliferation of institutional actors and a nominal increase in the amount of funds available, the policy tenets did not change and the rate of funds disbursed actually worsened – a situation better described as ‘less of the same’.
How Social Media Can Shape a Protest Movement: The Cases of Egypt in 2011 and Iran in 2009
By: Felix Tusa
Published in Arab Media & Society Issue 17 (2013)
Abstract: This article will explore the effect of social media and Internet-based communication on social movements. It will do this by looking at two major processes of social movements—framing and organizing—in two case studies: the protests in Egypt from December 2010 to February 2011 (during the Arab Spring), and the post-election protests in Iran in 2009 that became known as the beginning of the Green Movement. The article will use this comparison and examination to determine how computer- mediated communication (CMC) was used in Iran in 2009 and in Egypt during the Arab Spring. These examples will also reveal whether CMC is most effective in framing a protest movement or organizing it; and to what extent this usage explains the success or failure of these protest movements
Urban Subalterns in the Arab Revolutions: Cairo and Damascus in Comparative Perspective
By: Salwa Ismail
Published in Comparative Studies in Society and History Volume 55, Issue 4 (2013)
Abstract: This paper investigates the role of urban subalterns both as participatory agents in the Arab revolutions and as mediating forces against revolutionary action. It argues that during revolutionary periods the positioning of subalterns as a political force should be understood in relation to their socio-spatial location in the urban political configuration. Looking at the protest movements in Cairo and Damascus, the paper examines the differentiated locations of subaltern actors in each to demonstrate how their positioning in relation to state and government has shaped their engagement in the revolutions. In Cairo, the mobilization of subaltern forces was anchored in spatialized forms of everyday interaction between popular forces and agents of government. These interactions were formative of urban subjectivities that entered into the making of “the people” as the subject of the Revolution. In Damascus, the configuration of the urban space and the Syrian regime’s modes of control made it difficult for subaltern forces to mobilize on the same scale as in Cairo or to form a unified opposition. The regime instrumentalized socio-spatial fragmentation among subalterns, in effect turning some segments, as buffers for the regime, against others. In analytical terms, the paper underscores the common conceptual ground between the categories of “urban popular forces” and “urban subalterns.” This ground covers their socio-spatial positionality, their bases of action, and the factors shaping their political subjectivities.
Tunisia and Syria: Comparing Two Years of Revolution
By: Leyla Dakhlia
Published in Middle East Critique Volume 22, Issue 3 (2013)
Abstract: This article aims to reconstruct the connection between the uprisings in Tunisia and Syria—or rather provide the means for characterizing it—by comparing two extremes that could be defined as opposites: that of the particular moment of contestation; and also the circulation and communication of ideas. The purpose of this exercise is not only to challenge the common discourse but also to provide other possible lines of approach regarding the moment itself, what stirs it up, what shifts it, of what it is made, and what can blur the lines. This exercise also provides the opportunity, albeit paradoxical, to reflect on pressing concerns that have arisen from observing what has been occurring in the region since early 2011.
Beyond Egypt’s “Facebook Revolution” and Syria’s “YouTube Uprising:” Comparing Political Contexts, Actors and Communication Strategies
By: Sahar Khamis, Paul B. Gold, Katherine Vaughn
Published in Arab Media & Society Issue 15 (2012)
Abstract: There is no doubt that social media has played, and are still playing, a crucial role in the calls for political change that have swept, and are still sweeping, the Arab region. However, their role as catalysts for political change and mobilizers for political action must be contextualized within the broader political and social structure in each country, with all their respective complexities and unique qualities. Therefore, in comparing and contrasting the role of cyberactivism in the Egyptian revolution and in the Syrian uprising, one year since they began, it is important to compare and contrast the underlying nuanced social, political and communication structures unique to each country, as well as the different roles of their various political actors and the types of online and offline communication strategies they deployed.
The Arab Spring Meets the Occupy Wall Street Movement: Examples of Changing Definitions of Citizenship in a Global World
By: Mervat F. Hatem
Published in Journal of Civil Society Volume 8, Issue 4 (2012)
Abstract: The essay takes the logic of Empire/multitude as a starting point for the study of forms of citizenship in an increasingly global world. The neo-liberal models of development that emerged in the South and the North in the 1980s have contributed to high levels of exclusion, expensive national security states, and economic crisis. While there are many historical economic and political differences between these models, there are also important similarities that can be seen in the protest movements that responded to them. The comparative study of the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street movement offer interesting insights into the development of the multitude as a global actor. The results are economic and political agendas that reflect the specificities of these different regions of the global world and their intersection
New Findings on Arabs and Democracy
By: Mark Tessler, Amaney Jamal, Michael Robbins
Published in Journal of Democracy Volume 23, Issue 4 (2012)
Abstract: Examined with data from the first and second wave of Arab Barometer surveys are support for democracy, understandings of democracy, desires for reform, values associated with a democratic political culture, views about the political role of Islam, and the relationship between support for political Islam and the embrace of democratic values. Broad continuing trends include strong support for democracy, understandings of democracy that emphasize economic considerations, and a division of opinion about Islam’s political role. Findings from surveys in Egypt and Tunisia in 2011 are discussed in greater detail in relation to post–Arab Spring developments in the two countries.
The Arab Spring, Its Effects on the Kurds, and the Approaches of Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Iraq on the Kurdish Issue
By: Aylin Ünver
Published in Middle East Review of International Affairs Volume 16, Issue 2 (2012)
Abstract: Not available