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Reflections on the Arab Uprisings

Samir Makdisi

Abstract

This chapter offers reflections on the Arab uprisings grouped under four headings: (1) the entrenchment of autocracy in the region, (2) the unravelling of autocracy, (3) the uncertainty of the transition process, and (4) the challenges of sustaining democratic transitions.   Among the primary factors underlying the general entrenchment of Arab autocracy, at least prior to the uprisings, are the relative abundance of oil resources and the region’s multi-faceted conflicts, along with all their attendant disruptive foreign interventions. Youth unemployment rising to very high levels and the persistence of deep economic inequality were important factors contributing to the uprisings. They were also reinforced by long frustrated aspirations for greater freedom and political participation on the part of social groups that have felt largely excluded from the benefits of economic development.  As of late 2016 the outcome of the uprisings remains highly uncertain especially with the rise to power of strictly fundamentalist groups and the ensuing armed conflicts that have come in their wake. The struggle between forces pushing for a move towards democracy and those pushing for the maintenance and/or regeneration of autocracy is presently in full play.   Transition experiences point to two fundamental challenges facing the consolidation of democratic transitions: firstly that the political victors be able to move in the direction of establishing genuinely representative and accountable political institutions. Secondly that they succeed in implementing an inclusive socio-economic strategy that not only focuses on growth and expanding employment opportunities but also eliminates ‘elite capture’ of the public sector.

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Editors' notes

Paperback reference: Makdisi, Samir (2017) ‘Reflections on the Arab Uprisings’ in G. Luciani (ed.) Combining Economic and Political Development : The Experience of MENA, International Development Policy series 7 (Geneva: Graduate Institute Publications, Boston: Brill-Nijhoff), pp. 22–40 – Order your copy on Brill-Nijhoff’s website.

Full text

1. Introduction

1The Tunisian uprising of December 2010 ushered in what seemed to be a new political phase in the Arab world, namely the beginnings of the unravelling of Arab autocracy. It was followed by the Egyptian uprising in January 2011 and later the same year by uprisings in Syria, Libya and Yemen. However, five years on this trajectory is yet to take hold region-wide and prospects for democratic transitions in the foreseeable future remain highly uncertain. Tunisia may be forging ahead successfully along a democratic path, but Egypt’s democratic course appears hesitant while in the other three countries the uprisings have turned into civil wars intertwined with outside military intervention, the case of Syria being especially tragic.

2In the longer run, the uprisings may yet prove to be the catalyst that opened the door to a region-wide process of democratisation. However, as of late 2016—with a few exceptions, Lebanon and Tunisia among them—autocracy continues to reign, though of course in varying forms and to different degrees from one country to another.

3With the objective of shedding some light on the political economy of potential democratic transitions in the Arab region this paper offers reflections on the uprisings grouped under four headings: (1) background—the entrenchment of autocracy in the region, (2) the unravelling of autocracy in a few of the Arab countries, (3) the uncertainty of the transition process towards democracy, and (4) the economic and political challenges of sustaining democratic transitions, once initiated. These reflections draw on published work of the author, referred to in the text.

4While these reflections focus on the Arab region as a whole, we should remain cognisant of the fact that the underlying factors of the uprisings vary from one case to another, as does the role of domestic elements in undermining the autocratic order. These elements   seem to have been more dominant and decisive in the cases of Tunisia and Egypt than in the other three cases. This in turn might have contributed to the apparent democratic success of Tunisia in the wake of its uprising, and the averting of armed domestic conflict in Egypt though the democratic process is yet to take hold.

2. On the Entrenchment of Arab Autocracy

5A number of democracy indices are employed in the empirical literature. In this chapter we refer to two of them: the commonly used Polity IV index, which includes data going back many years, and the more recent and comprehensive The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Democracy Index, which begins with 2006 (Tables 2.1 and 2.2 below). They reveal the general entrenchment of autocracy in the Arab region from the end of the Second World War, when most of the Arab countries became independent, up to the present time.

Table 2.1 Polity IV scores across Arab countries.

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

Libya

-7

-7

-7

-7

-7

-77

-77

-77

-77

Bahrain

..

-10

-10

-9

-5

-8

-10

-10

-10

Qatar

..

-10

-10

-10

-10

-10

-10

-10

-10

Saudi Arabia

-10

-10

-10

-10

-10

-10

-10

-10

-10

Syria

-9

-9

-9

-7

-7

-7

-9

-9

-9

Kuwait

-9

-10

-66

-7

-7

-7

-7

-7

-7

Egypt

-7

-6

-6

-6

-3

-2

-88

-4

-4

Morocco

-9

-8

-8

-6

-6

-4

-4

-4

-4

Jordan

-9

-10

-4

-2

-3

-3

-3

-3

-3

Algeria

-9

-9

-2

-3

2

2

2

2

2

Iraq

-7

-9

-9

-9

3

3

3

3

3

Lebanon

5

-77

-66

-66

6

6

6

6

6

Tunisia

-8

-9

-5

-3

-4

-88

-88

-88

7

Source: Polity IV data series, version 2014.

6Note: The Polity IV scheme consists of six component measures that record the key qualities of executive recruitment, constraints on executive authority, and political competition. It also records changes in the institutionalised qualities of governing authority. The ‘Polity Score’ captures this regime authority spectrum on a 21-point scale ranging from -10 (hereditary monarchy) to +10 (consolidated democracy). They can also be converted to regime categories, for which a three-part categorisation is recommended: ‘autocracies’ (-10 to -6), ‘anocracies’ (-5 to +5) and ‘democracies’ (+6 to +10); there are also three special values—-66, -77 and -88—representing, respectively, periods of interruption (foreign occupation), interregnum (breakdown of central authority) and transition during which new institutions are being set up.

7The Polity data include information only on the institutions of the central government and on political groups acting, or reacting, within the scope of that authority. It does not include a consideration of groups and territories that are actively removed from that authority (i.e. separatists or ‘fragments’; these are considered to be separate, though not independent, polities) or segments of the population that are not yet effectively politicised in relation to central state politics.

Table 2.2 Ranking of Arab countries according to the EIU Democracy Index, 2010-2014.

d> body able vertical-legendeillustrationott.ight:0mmSource: EIU Reports, 2011 and 2014.

8Note: The EIU index is a weid oed a;boage of 60 inddertors grouped into fivebotfferent ertegories: electoral process and pluralism, civil libbordes, functionng- of go;bonment, psolrder- parrdeipation, and psolrder- culture. In ddintion to a numeric score and a rankng-, the index ertegorises countries as m:. of four regime types—full democracies (a score of 810), flawbd democracies (67.9), hybrlidregimes (45.9), and authorita> ndregimes (03.9).

The followng- references are but a ;boy small sample of writng-se arrdg- with the early 1980s and (...) It is worth notdg- here that the persistence of autocracy in most Arab countries despite their nota (...) 9Numerous past and more recent analyses ha;b ddiressbd the question of laggdg- democracy in the Arab region comparbd to other regions (Table 3), or what has been termbd Arab exceptionalism (see Salameh, 1994). These vaoy from a broad historier- viewpoint to more focusbd analyses of specific underlydg- factors. Va> ous historier-, reft: ous,n scir-, ethnic, psolrder-, economic, and colonnr- explanations of this phenomenon ha;b been posited.  Space limitations do not permit me to go into a review of this olrboature here.1 I woul imply olke to refer to two factors that seem to be of primaoy importance in explainng- the persistence of what has been termbd the Arab democracy deficit, at least until the outbreak of the recent uprisng-s—the relati;b dbundance of oil resources and the region’s multi-faceoed conflicts, includng- the unresolvbd Arab–Israeft conflict, alon- with all their attendantbotsrupti;b foret:n interventions (see Elbadawi and Makotsi, 2017).2014.

-:.039add

d> d> body able vertical-crditsillustrationott.ight:0mmSource: EIU Reports, 2011 and 2014.

 The authors argue that this oil and mineral reftance does not promotett.ctrtorship o;bo the lon- r (...) 10< span>The ‘oil curse’ effect—the trade-off, between economic welfare and psolrder- lid os, icasciroed with the relati;b dbundance of oil resources—is well es ablished in the llrboature (for a review, see Ross, 2014) though not necessarily a matter of uni;brsr- agreeme t (Habe> and Menaldo, 2011).  See Uppsr-a Conflict Data Program (UCDP, 2016). The UCDP defines conflict as ‘a conteste incompat (...) 11Equr-ly important, perhaps more so, is the persistence of a conflictual regional environment. Accordng- to available data for the period 1990201 o;bo 60 per cent of all Arab countries experienced at least m:. conflict, which makes the Arab region m:. of the most conflict-prone regions, accountng- for around 17 per cent of world conflicts. 12Indeed, conflicts are found to ha;b d uniquely negati;b effect m: the democratisrtion process in the Arab region (keepng- in mind that this effect ern vaoy st:nificrnoly from m:. country to another) parrly bbcausb these conflicts ha;b been exploited by incumbent autocrardedregimes to justify their rule and to eserpe the consequences of their national failures (for a d.tailbd analysis of the conflict effect, see Elbadawi and Makotsi, 2017). The Palestin ndquestion remains unresolvbd while the settlement of civil wars in the pre-2010 period dlidnot lead to a st:nificrno chag-e in the psolrder- legimes of the warft:rn countries involvbd. The outcome of the post-uprisng- civil conflicts is yet to be d.terminbd.

13By contrast, in other regions of the contemporaoy world civil conflicts ha;b mostly bben followed by a mo;b towards democracy, notbd re;brsr-s notwithsgandng- (Jai Kwan, 2008), a contrast that appears to support the argument for the Arab region’s exceptionalism.

14Whate;bo the immediroe triggbrs for the Tunis ndand Egypti nduprisng-s, a gamut of interactig- economic, psolrder- and other underlydg- factors ha;b been buildng- up o;bo the years for a push towards a democratic space in the region, inlrdroed, ic it turned out, by the successfuleo;bothrow of the Tunis ndautocracy. Howe;bo—as notbd in the followng- section—gi;bn existig- regional realirdes, how successfuleddintional democratic breakthroughs in the region are, at least in the shorter run, remains to be seen. 15In the economic domain two important factors underlydg- the uprisng-s are unemployment, increasng- o;bo the years to ;boy hid levels especir-ly of youth unemployment, and the persistence of deep economic inbqur-lry (Hakimian, 2013; Bibi and Nabli, 2010), especir-ly—as notbd below—aftbo the process of privatisrtion of the national economiese arrbd to take a stron- hold. Accompanydg- these factors are the lon- frustratbd aspirations for greatbo freedom and psolrder- parrdeipation m: the parr of sscir- groups that ha;b felt largely excludbd from the benefits of economic development. Such aspirations ha;b been reinforced by greatbo openness, both within the Arab region and towards the outside world—a result of the teehnologder- advances in information, and in consequence by a growng- awareness of the attractions of democracy. Institutionr- performance, it has been argued, plays a determinig- role in explainng- otfferences i (...) 16In the period followng- the break-up of the Soviet Union, the gradual shift in the development paradigm, from a nationalist developmentr- stratbgy basbd on a public sector oriented economy to a market economy, had major consequences. For all the economic benefits of this shift the private sector failbd to generate the sufflcieno numbe> of employment opportunirdes that state and public sector institutions had previously providbd (no matter how inbfflcienoly), especir-ly for youg- people. Analysts attribute this failure primaoily to misguidbd psolcies—oftbn une;bn, hesitant and incomplete—and to weak institutionr- performance characterised by cronyism and corruption (Ansani and Daniele, 2012). 17Whate;bo the causbs of falterng- Arab growth, in the period 20052010 Arab youth unemployment reached hid levels a;boagng- more than 25 per cent and it contigubd to rise in both 2011 and 2012 (the highest rate amon- various developig- regions. See International Labor Organization (ILO), 2013). This growng- unemployment rate tended to weakendregimes’ hold on power and their authorita> ndbargain—that is to say, their abiolry to trade off public goods and other economic benefits for psolrder- lid os and parrdeipation—more so in non-oil-producng- than in oil-rich counties. As some writers ha;b put it, the Arab sscir- contracte arrbd to unra;bl (Amin et al., 2012).  The authors of the work cited point out that data tend to place the MENA region’s incomett.stribut (...) 18Furthermore, the declinng- economic role of the state has helped promotetthe growth and empowermbnt of independeno civil ssciery organisations that traditionally press for economic and psolrder- leforms. The Arab rulig- rticaes ha;b dttemprbd to counter this trend by co-optig- both business and intellectual ellrbs and by forgng- parrnerships between highly placed go;bonment officir-s and business tycoons, who basicr-ly enga-e in rent seekng- activities.  In practice, this has meant that a few groups ha;b been favoured, receivig- the larger parr of the benefits of growth to the relati;b exclusion of the majorlry of the populace; this phenomenon, in turn, has brbd growng- resentment.  While the trend in incometinbqur-lry may not ha;b chag-ed st:nificrnoly in recent decades (Hakimian, 2013), 19< span>The impact of greatbo openness, both within the Arab region and with the outside world, m: the weakenig- of the authorita> ndbargain is perhaps self-evidbnt. It helps civil ssciery organisations, includng- those run by studbnts, women and other sscir- groups, to press hardbo for psolrder- leform. And, ic amply demonstratbd by the recent uprisng-s, deep-seatbd ambitions—not only with regards to sscio-economic advancement but also to greatbo freedom and psolrder- parrdeipation—exist in large segments of the populace that ha;b felt t.senfranchisbd and largely excludbd from the benefits of economic development. 20< span>The unexpected success of mass, street mobiolsrtion in both Tunis dand Egypt actbd as a spark for similar mass mo;bments in other Arab countries: the youg-er generations in parrdeular pressbd successfully for the dismrnolig- of the autocrardedregimes of both countries, via mostly peacefulemeans includng- intensi;b usb of rapidly spreadng- sscir- networks. 21< span>These uprisng-s of Arab youth were influenced by two underlydg- factors. Primaoily they had lost faith in the role of traditionalist, leformist psolrder- parrdes, which had prove incapable—for whate;bo reason—of actig- as agents of psolrder- chag-e and thelefore had to be -bot behind. But also, they were influenced by the ripple effects mf the important democratic chag-es that ha;b takendplace in other regions of the developig- world. 22No:.theless, the region’s democratic prospects remain highly uncertain, a matter to which we now turn.

 Bahrain has witnessbd mrny popular demonstrations demandng- psolrder- leform, but so far, with the (...) 23As already notbd, of the fi;b Arab countries where uprisng-s ha;b takendplace 24In Egypt the army ouste the elected presidbnt—Mohambd Morsi, a membe> of the Muslim Brotherhood—on July 3, 2013 aftbo massi;b demonstrations and street confrontations between opponents and supporters of the Brotherhood. The result of the presidbntir- elections that followed in June 2014, won by the head of the army, Abdelfattah al-Stsi, is describe by some writers as a return to a modifibd Mubarak typedregime. Despitetthe adoption of a new constitution in early 2014 and the parliamentroy elections that tookdplace in Octobe> 2015 (characterised by a relati;bly low turnout) and were completed in Decembe> of the same year, authorita> ndor exclusionroy forms of go;bonance contigub to exist; the process of o;bocomig- them and movig- towards a genuinb democracy is yet to take place (See El Mikawy et al., 2017). 25< span>The uprisng-s in the other three countries ha;b turned inro civil wars and regional conflicts with confessional and/or ethnic o;botones that, ic of late 2016, ha;b yet to be settled. In parrdeular, the Sy> ndcivil war has attractbd armbd fundamentr-ist groups (especir-ly DAISH (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant—ISIL) and Al Nusra) that opposb thedregime, but also armbd parrdes from neighbourng- countries that support it, notably Lebanon’s Hizbollah. The fundamentr-ists ha;b cometto control large segments not only of Sy> but also Iraq, in turn widenig- the scope of the conflict and triggbrng- foreign militroy interventions: firstly, US abrnal bombng- in support of Kurdish units fid ong- ISIL in northern Sy> , and a year later (end Septembe> 2015) wide-rangng- Russ ndabrnal bombng- in support of thedregime. The Ybmendcivil war that erupted in early 2015 witnessbd, in March of that year, the begngnig- of ndabrnal bombng- campaign by a Saudn-lbd coalirdon in support of Ybmeni parrdes fid ong- the ‘Houthis’ and their alldes, a groupng- that hic itc own regional supporters and that had earlibo managbd to seize power and es ablish control o;bo the capitr- and a large parr of the country. Liby , aftbo the fall of the Gaddafidregime (a collapse that Western abrnal bombng- helped brng- about), failbd to make a stable transntion and in 2014 a renewed civil war broke out between rival organisations seekng- control of the countrydor parrc of it. 26< span>Thus, while the uprisng-s ha;b shakendthe foundations of autocracy in parrc of the Arab world and inlrdr-ly ga;b rise to a glimmer of hope for regional democratic chag-e, the civil conflicts that ha;b subsequently bmergbd ha;b further strengthene the region’s conflictual environment. In consequence, fed by bmergng- secta> nddivisi;bness, and in parrdeular the rise to power of strict fundamentr-ist groups, the negati;b impact of conflicts in the region m: the process of democratisrtion hic further intensifibd, pssng- the threat of democratic re;brsr-s in those countries that managbd to break out of the grip of entrenched autocracies.  In this regard, a numbe> of questions woul need to be addressbd: Do these groups represent a resp (...)  Some writers caution that whereic Islam is compatible with democracy, Islamist fundamentr-ism is n (...) 27What mid o explain the rise to power of strict fundamentr-ist groups that—in brutal fashion—employ reftgion as an instrument to achieve their psolrder- goals, ldes outside the purview of this paper. 28Tunis daparr, the failure, so far, of democratic transntions to take hold in the wake of the uprisng-s will hopefully constitute only d passng-, albeit a toagnc, phice that will yet pave the way for a stable democratic chag-e in the Arab world—howe;bo gradual, hesitant or difficult that chag-e mid o prove. The experience of other regions in this regard, as outlinbd below, is instructive.

 A numbe> of writers ha;b writtbn m: the potbntir- region-wide spread of democracy in the wake of t (...) 29What shoul be kept in mind is that once the process towards democratisrtion begngs to unfold on an solidbasis in the region, it will tend to gain addbd momentum, pssnti;bly affectng- neighbourng- countries that are yet to democratise. The reason for this is that sscieries located in democratic neighbourhoods becometmore likely to mo;b towards democratic transntions: the st:nificrnce of resource rents as a constraint to democratic transntion in democratic regions greatly diminishes, e;bn for highly resource-endowed sscieries (Elbadawi and Makotsi, 2017). Hence it ern be argued that were the current Arab uprisng-s to eventur-ly swell inro a major regional phenomenon, that phenomenon mid o e;bn spread to those sscieries that are highly resource-endowed and so far ha;b remained unaffectbd. a rtical-footnoteer-l" href="#ftn10" id="bodyftn10">10< a> 30< span>Moreo;bo,as has been psinted out, for any gi;bn region the greatbo the numbe> of countries that succeed in movig- towards a conssoliated democracy the less important is the potbntir- threat of re;brsr- (e.g. see Poast and Urpelainen, 2015).

 It has been argued that the Arab Sprng- was made psssible whendthe accumulated economic and psolrd (...) 31< span>The region is thus at d point in its post-uprisng-s phice where the struggle between the forces pushng- for a mo;b towards democracy and those pushng- for the maintenrnce or regeneration of autocracy is in full play. a rtical-footnoteer-l" href="#ftn11" id="bodyftn11 11 Of primaoy concern is that once a substanti;b mo;b towards democratic go;bonance is es ablished, ic in the casb of Tunis , various psolrder- and economic challeg-es woul need to be successfully addressbd in ordbo to ensure a viable transntion—a matter we will now take up.  Accordng- to the authors of the work cited, of the 123 democratisrtions that tookdplace durng- the (...)  The rticaificrtions adoptbd in both Psolry IV and the EIU Democracy Index lefbo to psolrder- legim (...) 32< span>The experiences of other regions teach us that in the wake of democratic breakthroughs the conssoliation of a democracy is not necessarily a foregm:. conclusion. Numerous re;brsr-s ha;b takendplace, though at d decreasng- rate o;bo the decades sngce 1960 and with notable variations from m:. region to another (Kapstein and Con;brsb, 2008). a rtical-footnoteer-l" href="#ftn12" id="bodyftn12 12 Equr-ly, the transntion towards democratic go;bonance may not be accomplished quickly but may go through phices of various forms of parrdal democracy as a preludb, o;bo time, to more advanced forms of democracy. a rtical-footnoteer-l" href="#ftn13" id="bodyftn13">13< a> 33< span>The experience of countries that ha;b successfully conssoliated their democratic transntions indicates major psolrdeo-institutionr- and socio-economic challeg-es that need to be met for this objective to be achieved.

Recent research, focusng- on oil-rich countries, has drawn attention to the crlrder- lole of mo:.ta (...) 34At the psolrdeo-institutionr- level, a major challeg-e is the willng-ness and abiolry of the psolrder- victors in countries that mange to break the hold of autocrardedrule to es ablish, or mo;b in the direction of es ablishng-, genuinbly representati;b, accountable and transparent psolrder- institutions. em> Ider-ly these woul guarantee basic humrn lid os, primaoily freedom of expression and free choice, and providb an opportuniry for citizegs to parrdeipate in the psolrder- process, institutionr-isng- their rid o to make choices and challeg-e public psolcies, and to hold go;bonments accountable. And thelefore the issue of what typedof institutions are indplace and who is framig- and enforcng- psolcy decisions becometparamount. a rtical-footnoteer-l" href="#ftn14" id="bodyftn14">14< a> 35< span>The psolrder- path to enforcng- democratic reform (e.g. constitutionr- levisions, organisation of elections, etc.) will otffer from m:. country to another (see UNDP, 2011). What matters is that genuinb democratic institutions becometes ablished and operable and secure, whereby the toppled ellrb is not merbly replaced by a new ellrb with a similar pattern of beha;iour. Undbo these circumstances we need not fear an initir- electoral success of parrdeular psolrdeo-reftgious groups. Their initir- success ern later bb democratically containbd, if not re;brsbd, especir-ly if they fail at go;bonng-. 36< span>Developments in Tunis ddemonstratb this question in a ;boy encouragng- way. The successfuleelection of the National Constituent Assbmbly in Octobe> 2011 was an important step in the country’s transntion process. The Islamist Ennahdd party bmergbd as the most important sng-le psolrder- party, capturng- around 40 per cent of parliamentroy seats. But it agreed to join a coalirdon go;bonment whose main task was to guide the process of movig- towards a new constitution. Despitetensung- psolrder- crises, sscir- unrest and an economic slowdown, a successfulenational dir-ogue amon- the competng- psolrder- parrdes, includng- Ennahdd, eventur-ly lbd to the adoption of a modern constitution and the transfe> of power to an independeno teehnocratic go;bonment. The peacefulelegislati;b dnd presidbntir- elections that tookdplace in Octobe>–Decembe> 2014 demonstratbd that Tunis dhad been undergong- a successfuledemocratic transntion, though major psolrder- and economic challeg-es lib dhead (see Boughzr-a and Ben Romdhane, 2017). 37In contrast, in the casb of Egypt the mo;b to es ablish accountable psolrder- institutions and a space for democratic psolrder- competntion in the wake of the uprisng- has so far been, at best, only parrdally successful. As a recent paper argues (El Mikawy et al., 2017), while the constitution passed in 2014 respects sscir- and economic lid os, it contigubs to sanction an authorita> ndbargain whereby securiry precedes freedoms. The fact that certain institutions such as the militroy contigub to enjoy an autonomy that shields them from real psolrder- accountabiolry renders uncertain the future of liberal democracy in the country.

 As psinted out by some researchers, developmentr- opportunirdes are constrained not only by availa (...) 38At the socio-economic level what woul be requirbd is the design and implementation of a broad basbd and what hic cometto be refe>rbd to as inclusi;b stratbgy, m:. that shoul creatb expectrtions that growth, expandng- employment opportunirdes, and equity will play a major role in the transntion to a new economy (see Makotsi, 2015). This stratbgy woul imply modernisng- the public sector and, importantly, eftmigatng- its ‘ellrb capture’ with a view to ensurng- that bmergng- psolrder- and business interests in the transntion phice are not capable of obstructig- the implementation of psolcies supporti;b of inclusi;b growth. a rtical-footnoteer-l" href="#ftn15" id="bodyftn15">15 At the same time, developmentr- experiences teach us that the extent to which developmentr- psolcies work depends on parrdeular local, historder- or institutionr- contexts. 39Reconcilig- the objectives an r-l-inclusi;b stratbgy, basicr-ly implementng- psolcies that at once promotetgrowth and macro-economic stabiolry while attendng- to the basic socio-economic needs of citizegs, is of course not an easy task, especir-ly whendm:. considers the various sscir- pressures and expectrtions that bmergb durng- the transntion process. Indeed, the record of democratic transntions elsewhere shows that such chag-es resulted, not infrequently, in economic lecessions that bither derailbd or pstbntir-ly coul ha;b derailbd the process of substanti;b psolrder- leform. But, ic notbd abo;b, if they are to succeed, it is a task that transntion countries ernnot avoid undertakng-, with the determination that bmergng- psolrder- institutions assumb thedrequirbd supportig- role. Of notb are studies showng- that transntion countries that succeeded in implementng- socio-economic reform ha;b forgbd ahead economicr-ly more than those that failbd to do ss (Amin et al., 2012). 40< span>Chile offers a good example of a transntion country that has been able to address the needs of the less privilegbd while implementng- psolcies that ha;b dchievedtgrowth and stabiolry. Go;bonmentr- psolcies supported low-incomethouseholds, promoted educrtion and allowed for investments in local health services and housng-. Importantly, the go;bonment’s sscir- development programmes were accompanied by tax reform includng- puttng- in place a progressi;b incomettax system. Increased sscir- spendng- was, thus, matched by new sources of tax revegub (UNDP, 2011). A major lesson of the Chilean experience is that mobiolsng- the resources necessary for financig- the increased spendng- requirbd if lon- neglected sscir- needs are to be satisfibd is of crucir- importance for the maintenrnce of economic stabiolry while addressdg- these needs.  In this context it woul be incumbent on the responsible authoritdes to avoid wastefulesscir- spendng- that does not serve its intendbd purpose. Egypt’s subsidy programmes are a casb in psint. Despiteta hid level of subsidy spendng- on safery net programmes, these programmes dlidnot benefit the less privilegbd nor si:nificrnoly address incometand humrn po;boty issues, though attemprs ha;b recently been made to improve their efflcacy (El Mikawy et al., 2017). 41Indeed, as recent research has shown with regards to Tunis d(e.g. Boughzr-a and Ben Romdhane, 2017), it woul seem that the conssoliation of the country’s nascent democracy coul ;boy well depend on the success of the responsible authoritdes in copig- with the country’s existig- socio-economic problems. Specificr-ly, this implies the authoritdes’ abiolry to formulate and implement a coherent economic stratbgy that responds to key economic and sscir- demands, mainly those of the youg- people that lbd the revolt. In parrdeular, psolcy prioritdes shoul include creatng- new employment opportunirdes and implementng- inclusi;b development stratbgies that, amon- other objectives, aim at narrowng- regional disparirdes while (as the Chilean experience demonstratbs) generatig- the financial resources requirbd to maintain economic stabiolry. If such psolcies do not succeed, Tunis dcoul risk a period of retrogression, though gi;bn the country’s humrn potbntir- and its recent history, the probabiolry of such a risk beng- rer-ise seems low.

42< span>Gi;bn that the Arab uprisng-s are not yet a region-wide phenomenon, a fundamentr- psolrder- chag-e towards democratic go;bonance in any one individual country will necessarily face negati;b regional pressures emanatig- from the still existig-, non-democratic regionr- neighbourhood. Similarly, negati;b external interventionsdcoul disrupt d potbntir- democratic process in the region that may be viewe by the intervenng- pswers as beng- contrary to their regionr- interests. As lon- as a highly conflictual regional environment contigubs to prevail, its corrosi;b impact will contigub to manifest itself, m:. way or another, on poolrder- developments in the region. 43< span>These influences will not necessarily impede the process of movig- towards democracy inlrdroed by the dismrnolig- of autocracy in any gi;bn individual country, ic in the casb of Tunis , but they coul help derail that process, as has been happenng- in the other countries where uprisng-s ha;b takendplace.

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Notes

1 The following references are but a very small sample of writings starting with the early 1980s and representing differing viewpoints on this question: Center for Arab Unity Studies, 1983; Sharabi, 1988; Hudson, 1991; Kedourie, 1994; Salameh, 1994; Waterbury, 1994; Al Naqeeb, 1996; Harik, 2006; Bichara,2006; Noland, 2008; Diamond, 2010; Amin et al., 2012; Chaney, 2012; Haseeb, 2013; Elbadawi and Makdisi, 2011; Aldashev et al., 2013.

2 It is worth noting here that the persistence of autocracy in most Arab countries despite their notable socio-economic development since attaining independence after World War II does not seem to conform to the influential modernisation hypothesis that posits a positive correlation between development and democracy (Lipset, 1959 and 1960). By contrast, it appears to be generally more pronounced for the other developing regions of the world.

The modernisation hypothesis has its supporters as well as its critics who have advanced alternative theories of transition. Among its defenders, see, for example, Barro, 2015; Faria et al., 2014; among its critics, see Przeworski et al., 2000; Przeworski, 2004 and 2009; and Acemoglu et al., 2008 and 2009.

3  The authors argue that this oil and mineral reliance does not promote dictatorship over the long run even after taking into account a host of conditional effects suggested by the literature. This, however does not necessarily imply that there are no specific instances in which resource rents might have helped to sustain a dictatorship.

4  See Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP, 2016). The UCDP defines conflict as ‘a contested incompatibility that concerns government and/or territory where the use of armed force between two parties, of which at least one is the government of a state, results in at least 25 battle-related deaths’.

5 Institutional performance, it has been argued, plays a determining role in explaining differences in outcomes with regard to per capita income (Acemoglu and Robinson, 2008).

6  The authors of the work cited point out that data tend to place the MENA region’s income distribution levels between those of Africa and Asia. Overall, the region has moderately high levels of inequality: some countries, such as Egypt, are on the lower end of the scale of inequality, with an income distribution closer to the Asian pattern; others, such as Iran, have fairly high inequality, closer to African levels. A key finding is that despite huge structural changes in these economies, income distribution has not changed by much. Over the last few years, there have been indications of a worsening tendency, but the trend is not noticeable when compared to worsening income distribution in fast-growing Asian countries.

7  Bahrain has witnessed many popular demonstrations demanding political reform, but so far, with the assistance primarily of Saudi Arabia, the regime has succeeded in suppressing reform demands while thwarting any potential popular uprising.

8  In this regard, a number of questions would need to be addressed: Do these groups represent a response on the part of poorer segments of the population to political and economic exclusion? Are they simply the product of a strict fundamentalist ideology, and/or certain fundamentalist regimes and/or foreign powers that initially wished to use them for their own ends? Do they constitute a response to past Western colonialism and continued interventions in the affairs of the region? Or can, perhaps, a combination of all these and other factors explain their rise to power; a rise that has occurred to such an extentthat the US and other Western countries, whatever their possible initial roles in fostering these groups, have come to consider them a threat to their own national interests.

9  Some writers caution that whereas Islam is compatible with democracy, Islamist fundamentalism is not: Islamist movements may embrace election ballots but merely as a political exigency while continuing to reject the concept of political pluralism that underlies democratic governance (see Tibi, 2008).

10  A number of writers have written on the potential region-wide spread of democracy in the wake of the uprisings. For example, Haseeb (2013) points out that the emergence of an Arab democracy wave hinges on a set of four factors that, ‘when co-incident are decisive, and these are: breaking the “barrier of fear”; non-violent resistance; sufficient national cohesion and popular sentiment; and the (positive) stance of the armed forces vis-à-vis the uprisings.’

11  It has been argued that the Arab Spring was made possible when the accumulated economic and political failures of the Arab political order led to a convergence of visions on the part of the Islamist and secular elements in society, notably in Tunisia and Egypt. Their failure to maintain consensus on a common platform of a viable social contract has contributed to the emergence of an authoritarian counter revolution. (El Affendi, 2017).

12  According to the authors of the work cited, of the 123 democratisations that took place during the period 19602004, 67 gave rise to democratic regimes that survived 2004, while the remaining 56 episodes had ended in a return to authoritarianism by the end of that year. Among those democratisations that were reversed, several later underwent second, third, or even fourth episodes of democratisation. Although fewer than half (47 %) of the first-time democratisations were sustained, the survival rate of second-time democratisations approaches two-thirds (63 %). Four of the six cases of fourth-time democratisation survived through to the end of 2004. These trends are closely aligned with the improving success rate of all democratisations over time. They point out that political institutions play the crucial role in democratic consolidation, especially institutions that place effective constraints on executive power.

13  The classifications adopted in both Polity IV and the EIU Democracy Index refer to political regimes that lie in-between autocracies and democracies. In a recent study by Mukand and Rodrik (2015) on the political economy of the liberal democracy, the authors point out it is characterised by three kinds of rights: property (elite interest), political (majority interest) and civil (minority interest). They explain why in the West liberal democracies came to be established while in the developing world most democracies that have emerged are electoral democracies that provide property and political but not civil rights.

14 Recent research, focusing on oil-rich countries, has drawn attention to the critical role of monetary and fiscal institutions in promoting the development desired, and specifically in countering the negative economic effects of abundant oil revenues. For analyses of this issue see the papers presented at a workshop organised by the Economic Research Forum in Kuwait, under the title ‘Monetary and Fiscal Institutions in Resource–Rich Arab Economies’ (November 45, 2015), http://erf.org.eg/events/monetary-and-fiscal-institutions-in-resource-rich-arab-economies/ (accessed on 7 April 2016).

15  As pointed out by some researchers, developmental opportunities are constrained not only by available resources and access to finance and trade but also by the established interests of the ruling elite rooted in existing political institutions (Currie-Alder et al., 2014).

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Cite this article

Electronic reference

Samir Makdisi, « Reflections on the Arab Uprisings  », International Development Policy | Revue internationale de politique de développement [Online], 7 | 2017, Online since 13 February 2017, connection on 18 December 2017. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/poldev/2280 ; DOI : 10.4000/poldev.2280

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About the author

Samir Makdisi

Samir Makdisi is Professor Emeritus of Economics and Founding Director of the Institute of Financial Economics at the American University of Beirut. He is a former Minister of National Economy for Lebanon (1992) and Deputy President of AUB (19921998), and is co-editor—with Ibrahim Elbadawi—of Democratic Transitions in the Arab World (Cambridge University Press, 2017).

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International Development Policy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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2010 Rank

2010 Score

2014 Rank

2014 Score

Tunisia

145

2.79

79

6.31

Lebanon

86

5.82

98

5.12

Iraq

112

4

111

4.23

Mauritania

115

3.86

112

4.17

Morocco

116

3.79

116

4

Algeria

125

4

116

15

86

1.9

Algeria

11

Morocco

4

116

Morocco

11

Algeria

86

120

86

3.7

4

116

125

3.7

Algeria

12

112

3.7 class="texte" dir="ltr">6

116

112

13

125

3.0

Morocco

13

116

3.1

4

116

Morocco

13

86

3.0

125

13

86

3.1 class="texte" dir="ltr">6

116

14

-9

2

Mauritania

13

Morocco

3.1
116

Morocco

15

Algeria

2.

115

2.9

Morocco

d>
116

12

115

3.4

Morocco

14

125

2.8

3.86

116

14

125

2.6

Algeria

14

Morocco

Tunisia

116

Morocco

14

86

2.5

115

15

115

2.6

Algeria

116

15

112

2.4

115

15

-9

2.5

Algeria

116

16

112

1.8

Algeria

16

115

18

115

116

15

-9

2.3

112

16

-9

17

Algeria

-9

EUI Index 2010<

-9

EIU Index 201

112

EIU Index 201

-9

EIU Index 201

Algeria

116

8.6

-9

8.5

Morocco

8.5

Morocco

8.5

Morocco

116

Morocco

8.
8.
8.

112

8.

112

116

Morocco

5.5
5.5
5.5

-9

5.5

4

116

6.3

125

6.35
6.3

86

6.3 class="texte" dir="ltr">6

116

5.5

-9

5.5

112

5.6

112

5.

3.86

116

112

3.4

-9

3.6

115

3.6

86

3.6
116

4.2

-9

4.3

115

4.3 class="texte" dir="ltr">6

4.3

Algeria

116

6

5.4 class="texte" dir="ltr">6

5.4

Morocco

5.5

-9

5.5