Will Mideast Revolutions Achieve Democracy?

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After two years of revolution, protests, and violence, it is unlikely that genuine democracy will flourish in the Middle East.

democracy-arab-springDemocracy, an ancient term and political system, is perceived today as the “ideal” form of governance. It is promoted by the West and lately aimed at the Middle East and developing world.

Implementing democratic systems differs from country to country and it’s highly influenced by many factors. The main factors are considered to be: 1) War and military occupation, 2) Changing the balance of international powers, 3) Social and economic development, 4) Globalization and 5) Changing political culture.

Many countries, including Germany and Japan, have embraced democracy after World War II when the main factor was the war, military occupation and the changing balance of international powers.

The democratization process in these countries turned out to be successful. Nevertheless, the main question raised among scholars is: does democracy work in countries which are not ripe or ready to embrace this system?

The skepticism among scholars and international community is misguided as well as predictable

Every “wave of democracy” over the last century – after World War I and World War II – has followed deep introspection about the readiness of these countries to actually rule democratically. While in some countries democracy found progress and sound foundations, other countries seem to be stalled or even trapped in a transition limbo.

In the past two years, the international community has been stunned by the struggle of many Muslim countries to change their system of governance. Commonly referred to as the “Arab Spring,” these ongoing changes in North Africa and the Middle East have resulted in extreme violence, chaos and instability.

What we all have witnessed during the Arab Spring was revolution as a mean of achieving democracy or something else better than the current regimes.

Seemingly, revolution has been the last effort for the people to change their lives. Do these people really want democracy, or do they just want to get rid of the old traditional regimes?

This situation reminds me of the animated movie Finding Nemo and the effort of Nemo to go back to the ocean and be free. The confusion at the first moment in the ocean begs the question: “Now what?”

After two years of revolution and massive protests, the Arab Spring has stagnated. Only Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen have shown some progress in regime change towards democracy, although the process has been very slow and bloody.

Egypt democratically elected Mohamed Morsi as president in a very revolutionary way, only to later demand his resignation. This raises the question of the democratic voting system. Why do people vote when the person elected will be ousted in less than a year?

Is the revolution towards democracy turning into a war among powerful people and their ambition to rule the country? Yes, most of these countries have shown their willingness to embrace democracy over the authoritarian system, but do they really want secularism?

One would assume that after two years people in this region would be aware of the political changes that have taken place and strive towards stability for the sake of their well-being. On the contrary, these countries are descending further into violence and are stuck in a vicious cycle of confusion where the democratic process is actually turning into religious wars. Only time will tell whether people become more aware that progress requires moving forward and not reverting backwards to something which they were escaping from.

Donika Emini is pursuing a Master’s of Public Policy at the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy at the University of Erfurt. She has graduated in Political Science at the University of Prishtina. Her fields of expertise/research interests include local government reform and diversity management in Kosovo. Donika worked as a research and project manager at IPOL. Follow her on Twitter @donikaeminiRead other articles by Donika.

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