Democracy after the Arab spring

Just about eight years ago there was a wave of change that seemed too sweet the Arab countries and the Middle East. The surge started in Tunisia and slowly spread to the other countries including Egypt and even Syria. Popular and nonviolent demonstrations in Tunisia characterised the wave. The citizens came out to decry the dictatorship of the country leadership. When these uprising started, the political scientist gave it different names, including the Arab revolt, the Arab Spring, and even the Arab revelation. Throughout about two years, some of the dictators had been dethroned. However, years after the uprising, one question that seems to linger in the mind of many, is whether they had a positive impact on these nations. There are varied views, with some arguing that they shaped the politics of these regions while others are claiming that they led to more disaster. A more in-depth analysis might provide a better understanding that the uprising had on the countries.

The Arab spring was only a recipe for chaos. The basic idea behind the demonstration was that it should liberate the citizens and eventually lead to development in the nations by getting rid of the oppressive leaders. However, the countries finally witnessed bloodshed, chaos and instability as a result of the conflicting regional and international interests. The protests might have started with a noble reason of freedom for the Arabs. However, other interest group both locally and internationally took over the course of the protest and thus changed the course. Many of the players took a personal interest rather than the interest of the demonstrators. These diverse interest groups have led to terrorism in the Middle East that has led to the Sectarian wars and infighting and even death (Mari, 2017). The concern that seems to emerge is who won or lost in the protest. Did the protesters get what they wanted? That does not seem to be the case when looking at the aftermath of these protests.

The protest in Arab country moved from a situation where the citizens of these nations were pushing for democratic change and degenerated to political, regional and religious conflict. Nationality shifted to a case where the people were now focused on religious or political allegiance to individual groups. The Arab spring seemed to have only destroyed communities, and the emergence of the refugee problem. Besides, the quest only led to the development of groups that are a sectarian and ideological ethic difference that are not focused on co-existence. It is evident that the pursuit of the protester never resulted in the initial goals. The idea of the protester was to free their countries from dictatorship, but they only seem to have created a new problem in the region (Aman, 2017). The dictators might have left power, but the idea of the protester was not only to rid the dictators but also to free the nation from other problems. Currently, most of these countries are in severe problems than even before the dictators left.

The other reason that the Arab spring did not achieve democracy is that the old guards were never changed. Egypt is one of the cases in point. After Mubarak was ousted out of power in the year 2011 the country has had two elections both for the president and the parliament. However, despite these display of democracy the army and the security services have remained the same. Besides, under the constitution, the military has the right to try civilians, and a further new law restricts protest. These changes thus do not seem to provide a good ground for the growth of democracy. In the recent election Chief Abdul who was the former army officer won the election. However, the challenge is that he comes to power at a time when there is so much polarisation between the secularist and the Islamism extremists (Shahin, 2017). Therefore, many Egyptians liberals have expressed their dissatisfaction with the current state of the country. The democracy that people so much clamoured for does not seem to have been achieved yet.

Sectarian interests seem to be one of the other reasons that there is still no democracy in the Arab nations. In the two countries where the Arab uprising did not reach like Iraq and Lebanon, the democratic process has often suffered in the hands of the sectarian interests. In this case, the electorate does not get the change to choose a leader that represents the interest of the nation as a whole, but the focus is on the benefits of individual communities. In these countries, the candidates that get the chance to take part in the elections are ones that only seem to support the interests of given communities or groups. Besides, democracy in Algeria appears to operate on the under the shadow of the military and the benefit of the ruling elite. The elite has a grip on the institutions that are supposed to provide ground for democracy such as the electoral commission. Therefore, this nation still runs on the guise of freedom but the reality is that power remains within the ruling elite.

Besides, there is no debate and discussion on the issues that affect the people in the region. Eliminating autocratic patterns of leadership in the Arab world is hard. Up to date, the education systems within this region focus on rote learning, and there is no focus on questioning and analysis. Even political discussions in the Arab TV channels would often end up in better exchanges. Being able to agree and conceding to an opponent is one of the pillars of democracy. However, this does not seem to be the case is most of the discourses in the TVs. One thing that seems clear is that the mindset of the people within the region does not seem to have changed (Davis, 2016). The practice of democracy appears to be different in the Arab world.  There is no such evidence that people are ready to tolerate divergent ideas. With such a mindset it has become hard to end aristocracy and replace it with democracy.

The other problem that seems to trouble the region is that Democracy appears to be singular. For instance, the presidential election in Syria is taking place in a nation that is torn apart by war. In the regions where the government is in control, the circumstances are not different from the ones prevailing the 2011 (Davis, 2016). Without a serious challenger to the Bashar in a one-party state, the polls might only seem like a mere formality. Democracy is not just about elections but somewhat competitive elections where everyone has the freedom to vie and get elected. However, in the case of Syria that does not seem to be the case. It only seems to be the case aristocratic leadership that has just been masked into democracy. The same situation appears to be facing Libya. Since the overthrow of Gaddafi, the country experienced a free election in 2012 that was supposed to bring a new era in the country. However, the central authorities and institutions have not been able to deal with the militia. The idea of having democratic systems does not seem to be taking root in the country. Of all the countries that experienced the uprising, with Tunisia being the first are yet to have some stability (Davis 2016). The Army remains at the helm of power. In the quest to change the country the political groups made some concession and allowed some changes in the constitution that seek to meet the needs of the larger society. With all these nations struggling it is remains a significant concern on the impact of the Arab spring on the communities in the region.

However, it is important to point out that the decision to radically change the system of leadership in these countries came from a citizenry that felt they could no longer handle the aristocratic administration. Over the years the western nations have been trying to bring about democracy in the region. However, their approach has been a slow and non-combative one. The primary reason that these western nations have failed to achieve any justice in the area was that they were in cooperation with the aristocratic leaders. These leaders allowed them to take resources from the region, and thus the western powers shifted their focus from calling for democracy to being a party to the aristocratic leadership.

In most cases, the leaders would often stage manage some form of democracy, and the western nations did not seem to care so much. Therefore, when the people decided to take things up their way was as a result of being fed up with the sit and wait for the approach. While this approach might not have seemed to achieve the intended goal, it is only a matter of time before these nations produce full democracy. Looking back at the history of the developed land, justice was not just a one year’s event. These countries have taken years to achieve full democracy. Therefore it is essential to give these nations that time and space to grow their democracy.




Aman, M. M. (2017). The Rise and Demise of the Middle East Quest for Reforms, 2011–2017. Digest of Middle East Studies26(1), 170-186.

Davis, J. (2016). Introduction: The Arab Spring and Arab Thaw. In The Arab Spring and Arab Thaw (pp. 11-20). Routledge.

Davis, J. (2016). The Arab Spring and Arab thaw: unfinished revolutions and the quest for democracy. Routledge.

Mari, A. (2017). Democracy promotion and stability in Egypt and Tunisia: Discursive configurations of the European Neighbourhood Policy after the Arab uprisings (Master’s thesis).

Shahin, A. F. (2017). The quest for legitimacy: the Egyptian state from Nasser to Sisi (Doctoral dissertation, University of St Andrews).