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 [...]
[...] For instance, in Maghreb, in the 1980's, an economical crisis and stagnation started and had important consequences on the political situation. Indeed, the states, which were supposed to bring economical equity and justice, lose their credibility and therefore their legitimacy. To get a new legitimacy, they tried to institute relative democratic practices, such as political pluralism, more public liberty, etc. However, these democratic transitions remained quite limited in so far as the political opposition was controlled and hegemonic parties were created. [...]
[...] C Limited democratization and new challenges of democratic transitions In the last decade, the Arab countries have settled some democratic practices which may constitute a progress for democratic transitions. Thus, in 1999, Kuwait gave women political rights; in Jordan, Egypt and Qatar were created national human rights institutions; In 2005 took place pluralist presidential elections in Egypt; even Saudi Arabia organized its first municipal elections; etc. These reforms were essentially imposed by the top and gave the governments more legitimacy. [...]
[...] The realization of democratic pacts in the Arab countries, and especially in the small states, is also used as a protection against external threats or aggressions. Indeed, the aim is to link all the political parties in conflict to make the state stronger against possible threats or aggressions. Thus, after Kuwait has become independent, the Sabah feared that the other families became allies of Iraq, which wanted to invade the country. That's one of the reason for which the Sabah accepted to realize a consensual constitution. [...]
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