Assessing Prospects for Democracy in the Middle East
Despite the great differences in development among the states of the Middle East region, there is a common note of heightened political expectation running through it. The Cold War’s passing coupled with the dwindling credibility of Arab military options against Israel has shifted attention more to failures of governance, to corrupt bureaucracies, and to endlessly unfulfilled promises by the old ruling groups for better living standards and more political expression. The primary question is whether this ferment suggests real and positive change in the offing or whether it means turbulence merely within authoritarian continuity. Old issues are resurfacing. After World War II, how could progress towards democracy accommodate communist, Ba’thist and other power monopolists; yet if these represented significant popular political expression, how could they be excluded by democracy’s advocates? Today, similar questions are presented in a different form by radical Islamists who have forced greater authoritarianism on governments professing democratic aspiration. If Islamicists alone appear capable of rallying a long inert populace into a viable political opposition, can one democratize without them?
KeywordsPolitical Party Middle East Arab World Opposition Parti Arab State
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