The political landscape of the Middle East is undergoing its most dramatic transformation in sixty years. Through the force of popular uprisings, consolidated authoritarian regimes have been overthrown in Tunisia and Egypt. Popular militias are pushing toward the overthrow of Muammar alQadhafi in Libya. In every other country from Morocco to Iran governments confront popular demands for democratic political change.
While celebrating a historic turning point in Egypt and Tunesia, it is also clear that authoritarianism will remain a prominent feature of Middle East politics. The spectrum of regime types in the region will expand. It may even come to include democracies. Yet as the cases of Syria and Iran demonstrate, not all regimes will experience political openings. Eventhough the region might be transformed in the years ahead, the cases of Syria and Iran remind us that the political landscape of the Middle East will retain familiar and troubling features. This paper presents some key parameters for a rethinking of democracy and reform promotion in this part of the region.
This publication is part of the working paper series of the Knowledge Programme Civil Society in West Asia.