Arab spring, act two
As the chaotic transition towards democracy continues in North Africa and Yemen, the fighting in Syria is intensifying. And, less noticed, opposition to the Arab monarchies is growing.
by Hicham Ben Abdallah El Alaoui
Le Monde Diplomatique, January 2012
The Arab Spring is not an outcome, it is a process. For those countries at the forefront of regional transformation, the fundamental question is can democracy become institutionalised? Though progress has been uneven and the outcomes of many state-society struggles have yet to be resolved, the answer is a cautious yes. In at least a few countries, we are witnessing the onset of democratic institutionalisation: whether the process of reform and transformation spreads to other parts of the Middle East depends on many factors — religious tensions, political mobilisation, regime adaptations, geopolitics. Meanwhile North Africa provides the most promising preview of the future.
Democratic institutionalisation means the healthy convergence of politics around three arenas of competition: elections, parliaments and constitutions. When these institutions are robust and durable, then the democratic governments they engender are relatively safe from radical groups, reactionary forces and authoritarian backsliding (due to alternation: democracies that uphold the rule of law and hold regular elections require that power alternates between competing parties).
Phi Beta Iota: If the USA is a “velvet gulag,” a pretense of democracy under a two-party tyranny and what Matt Taibbi so-ably labels Griftopia, in which white collar criminals have bought and corrupted the government in a manner that religions and black collar criminals can only dream of, then it is quite fascinating to observe that Ambassador Max Palmer’s vision of breaking the real axis of evil, dictatorships, is moving ahead at speed. In combination with the absolute rejection of US “leadership” in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and the soft power advances of Brazil, China, India and ever so slowly but inevitably, Indonesia, the world is changing for the better. The US and Russian dictatorships, it appears, will be the last to fall, but fall they will.
Palmer, Mark (2005), Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World’s Last Dictators by 2025 (Rowman & Littlefield).