A recent article in the Economist on the state of the political progress in the Arab world singles out a few Maghrebi states with much consternation. Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya continue on their path of "cyclical" political reforms, introducing sheepish reforms as a safety valve to deflect mounting social unrest. As the Article states, many explanations are advanced for the democratic deficit in the region. But whether they are religious, structural or cultural, millions of Arabs still live under the yoke of autocratic regimes devoid of free, fair, competitive elections (recent farcical Egyptian elections are a case in point), rule of law, and basic individual and group liberties.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
The question that concerns this blogger is how long can the current dictatorial regimes maintain this facade of political reforms? Many have long written obituaries of Arab regimes, republican and monarchical. However, Arab leaders have proven resilient and adept at crafting ingenuous political ways to sustain their rule. Arab Sheikhdoms still gamble on oil rent in exchange of political contestation, while republican regimes have carefully restructured the political sphere in their countries. Libya just recently celebrated the 41st year anniversary of the "Brother Leader's" revolutionary coup. The Economist recently featured an article on the looming succession struggle between Qaddafi's sons Seif al-Islam and al-Mu'tassim Billah.
The panoply of manipulation ranges from electoral engineering, management of the opposition to mere old style coercion. All Arab regimes feature a variation of these strategies. Elections are mere instances to renew the regime's solid control of the political system. Opposition is often barred from contesting electoral races, often prosecuted and jailed on trumped-up charges. More alarming is the shrinking space for political dissent and freedom of the press and expression. In the past few months, several newspapers, journalists and blogs bore the brunt of the state's might and censorship.