Working Paper

The Arab revolutions: any new paths from here?

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While successive waves of democratization over the last half century changed the political landscape in various regions of the world, the authoritarian regimes have maintained their hold on power in the Arab region.

It is, therefore, understandable, that the uprisings which started in Tunisia in December 2010/January 2011 and spread throughout the region over the following few weeks and months have been called the “Arab Spring”. The Tunisian events seemed to open a new era of uprisings and political revolution in North Africa, and the Arab World in general. But the label of “Arab Spring” has been controversial and a positive outcome, with a sound democratic transition, has been elusive in most cases, and at best uncertain in others. This led some to even call it the Arab winter or Arab inferno. We prefer to designate these events as the New Arab Awakening.

While these events are unfolding and the political and social transformations are ongoing many questions continue to be subject of debate about their causes and implications. In order to understand further these recent events and their potential impact in the future we explore in this paper two questions.

First, how do the current events differ from previous and similar events in the region? Aren’t they just a repetition of other past unsuccessful attempts at political opening and liberalization?

Second, in view of the recent changes, what are the prospects for a real democratic transition and broad based inclusive growth and development in the countries of the region? Will they open new paths for political and economic progress or will they be a repetition of other failed attempts?