THE ARAB SPRING AND DEMOCRATISATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Arab national and regional politics are unfolding rapidly and momentously to the point where it is impossible to read the bewildering political map of the countries of the Arab uprisings. The heads of state in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen have changed. The underreported uprising in Bahrain lingers without resolution, and the Syrian regime appears to be dying hard in the face of an unrelenting uprising. Emerging Arab publics seem to have little in common beyond the immediate objective of overthrowing despotic rulers. Social forces are either nascent or remnants of regime brutality. Pluralism is still a vague concept and diverse political agendas invite more discord than cooperation. The systematic oppression that permeated Arab politics in the post-independence era engendered dogmatism and precluded compromise. The utter confusion that prevailed in a Cairo courtroom after the presiding judge announced giving former president Husni Mubarak a life prison term and the acquittal of senior officials in his administration, in connection with the security forces’ killing of hundreds of protesters, is indicative of the sad state of affairs in the countries of the so-called “Arab Spring.” Those in the audience who expected harsher sentences chanted: “the people want to cleanse the judiciary.” Libya has effectively disintegrated as a unitary state as different tribal militias claimed their own territories. The maintenance of law and order has become an acute problem in Tunisia, whereas Yemen is gripped by its internal wars that involve the Huthis, southern secessionists and al-Qaeda.
Deliberative politics in the countries of the Arab uprisings is floundering around without a sense of clear direction, with evidence that mouthpieces from defunct regimes remain politically vibrant. (William H. Simon, “Three Limitations of Deliberative Democracy: Identity Politics, Bad Faith, and Indeterminacy,” pp. 49-57, in Stephen Macedo, ed., Deliberative Politics: Essays on Democracy and Disagreement. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999). In Libya, for example, the general elections held in July 2012 saw the victory at the polls of the electoral ticket of Mahmud Jibril, a prime minister during the Qaddafi period. Jibril’s National Coalition ticket won 80 parliamentary seats, whereas the Islamist list of the Justice and Construction Party of Mohammad Sawan won a mere 20 seats, Al-Akhbar (Beirut), July 15, 2012.
THE GAP BETWEEN PROTEST AND GENUINE DEMOCRATIC CHANGE