Authoritarianism and Democracy in Rentier States
International Political economy
Dr. Khalil Gebara
Friday December 21, 2012
We can never understand politics until we begin to understand the flow of political, economical and social events that occur on a daily basis in our country and the countries surrounding us. For instance, Lebanon experienced the first form of rebellion on March 14, 2005 during a historical rally that ousted the Syrian regime, from security services to military officials, outside the borders of the Lebanese territory. Then came the Arab spring which was initiated by a Tunisian citizen setting himself on fire due to the unfair socio-economical behavior of the Tunisian ruling regime towards its citizens, and nowadays the Spring has settled in Syria were a blood bath is taking place between the rebels and the murderous regime.
Basically, the Middle East has been undergoing a unanimously process that is changing its face and breaking the status quo Arabs lived for the past 40 to 50 years. Morocco’s king gave a lot of concessions to the opposition; he even went as far as drafting a new constitution and decreasing his power over governmental institutions and policies. Algeria has been through a revolution that was forcefully silenced by the military in the early nineties, yet following a wave of protests in the wake of popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, Algeria officially lifted its 19-year-old state of emergency on 24 February 2011. The country's Council of Ministers approved the repeal two days prior. Tunisia was the cradle of the revolutions where Ben Ali’s 24 years of rule were put to an end by an intensive campaign of civil resistance, including a series of street demonstrations. Libya’s revolution started as protests in Benghazi beginning on Tuesday, 15 February 2011, which led to clashes with security forces and transformed into an armed rebellion that spread across the country. With the help of the NATO, the armed rebels were able to oust Muammar Gaddafi from power and later on capture him and kill him. Each country had its significance in revolting; coming to Egypt, It was mainly a campaign of non-violent civil resistance, which featured a series of demonstrations, marches, and acts of civil disobedience and labor strikes. Millions of protesters from a variety of socio-economic urban and religious backgrounds demanded the overthrow of the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and forced him to resign on the 25th of January 2012. The people of south Sudan chose to separate from north Sudan and they were granted their own independent state. The political situation in Palestine has changed, Hamas and Fatah are engaged in collaborative talks and Hamas abandoned its offices in Damascus, which clearly shows the change in agendas Hamas adopted after the revolution in Syria became legitimate and serious.
What makes the Kingdoms and Sheikhdoms of the gulf different? What makes the Islamic Republic of Iran immune to the Arab Spring? What is the type of the political unrest that occurred both in GCC countries and in Iran? Are those countries still susceptible for revolutions? Are oil revenues enough for the rulers to silence the people by more government spending and subsidizing commodities? What is the democracy index in those states? How is the political system of a rentier state like Iran different from that of the UAE or Qatar? All these questions are of world-wide interest, and what is most important is that those countries have a huge economical significance on the international level. Western societies are extremely aware of any form of rebellion in those countries due to the huge investments they have in them, and any form of regime toppling is going to be opposed fiercely. Two things are worth keeping in mind about this region: 1) the countries differ from one another in socio-political structure and history and 2) the regimes have...
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