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Democratic transitions in the Arab world

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Arab resistances to democratic transitions: An 'exceptionalism'?
    1. An unstable region.
    2. Economical factors.
    3. Socio cultural organization of the Arab countries.
  3. 'Democracies without democrats: An instrumentalization of the democratic process and discourses by the Arab political groups.
    1. Democratization as an instrument to resolve internal and external conflicts.
    2. Democratization as a possible response to economical and financial crisis.
    3. Limited democratization and new challenges of democratic transitions.
  4. Conclusion.
  5. Bibliography.

At the end of the Cold war, the political models of modernization different from democracy were totally discredited. Democracy, defined by Ghassan Salamé as an ?arrangement institutionnnel qui permet de garantir la participation des citoyens au choix de leurs dirigeants par la voie électorale', was considered as a universal model. As the ex-communist countries of Eastern Europe adopted democratic institutions, it was thought that the Arab world would realize its democratic transition as well. Nevertheless, as they remained essentially authoritarian states, the Arab countries appeared as a kind of ?exception' to democratization in the world. Thus, the idea that the Arab-Muslim world was opposed to democracy emerged. Despite this apparently resistance, democracy is a notion which is occupying today a more and more important place in the political discourses in the Arab world. Furthermore, several Arab countries such as Yemen, Lebanon, Kuwait, Jordan, etc., developed relative democratic practices. As a result, we can wonder if the Arab world is really an exception regarding democracy. How can we explain the Arab global resistance to democratic practices? How and why did democratization emerge in some Arab states? What's the meaning of democratic transition within the Arab world?

[...] This phenomenon is opposed to the democratic transitions of the Arab countries in so far as the part of the population able to claim political demands is linked and submissive to the authoritarian and repressive state. The middle class and the bourgeoisie preferred their own socio-economical interests to the democratization of the society. Finally, some intellectuals from the Arab world explain the resistance to democratization by cultural and historical factors. According to them, the Arab political tradition is based on a patriarchal model of authority, and therefore explains the authoritarian forms of the political systems in the Arab world. [...]


[...] Conclusion Within the Arab world, democracy remains a western concept whose values have never been really defended by any political groups: the Arab democrats do not really exist. As a result, the democratic transitions are quite relative. Nevertheless, democratic practices have been ?instrumentalized' by the states and the governments as conjunctural responses to conflicts, crisis, and lack of legitimacy. If the democratic transitions seem to spread in the Arab world, the phenomenon remains quite controlled, limited, and the authoritarian regimes are still today majority in [...]


[...] The Arab world represents rather an exception regarding the democratic transitions because of a set of criteria and factors, of which I will present the principal ones. A. An unstable region Many of the Arab countries are part of the Middle East, and therefore situated in a region which has known many military conflicts in the last decades. If other regions of the Third world have also been devastated by conflicts, the Middle East is characterized by a frightening number of conventional conflicts such as the Israel/Palestinian conflicts, the Iran- Iraq war, the Gulf War, the war in Iraq, but also by many civil wars, for instance in Lebanon in 1975, in Iraq between the Shiites and the Sunnis, in Yemen in the 90's, etc. [...]

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