Why do Middle Eastern and North African countries lack democratic governments? Is it the Arabic language or the Muslim faith? Columbia University scholars, Alfred Stephan and Graeme B. Robertson, seem to have the answers.
In regards to Arabism and Islam, the duo classifies nations associated with the former as democratic “underachievers” and the latter as “overachievers”. A state’s classification as an overachiever/underachiever is based upon their Gross Domestic Product Per Capita (GDPpc). In addition, they observe political rights on a scale to help them determine which states exhibit “electoral competitiveness.” They structure their argument into three phases: quantitative, qualitative, and implications of the prior phases’ results. Finally, Stephan and Robertson offer possible solutions and scenarios that must take place in order for the political atmosphere in Arab countries to transform.
The data used comes from the Freedom in the World: The Annual Survey of Political Rights and Civil Liberties by Freedom House and Ted Gurr’s Polity Project. The year 1972 is chosen as the suitable year to compare the data from both sources. Freedom in the World ranks nations on a scale of 1-7 whereas 1 is the highest and 7 is the lowest. Nations that are ranked 3 (and above) are considered “electoral competitive”. The Polity Project ranks nations from strong autocratic (-10) to strong democratic (+10). Nations that are ranked at least (+4) are classified as “electoral competitive”.
What constitutes as “electoral competitive?” According to the duo, government positions must be filled through fair elections. Governments like Egypt cannot bar individuals and parties from participating in elections. Secondly, high government positions should be filled with individuals who are elected though fair means, unlike Lebanon, whose executive and parliamentary government is authoritarian. In addition, a nation must meet these criteria for at least three years...
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