A Comparative Analysis of the 2011 Arab Uprising in Tunisia and Egypt.

Topics: North Africa, Egypt, Middle East Pages: 5 (1766 words) Published: May 16, 2013
Popular uprisings and regime change are two events that often occur with a temporal order of the former preceding the latter. Every year witnesses a number of popular uprisings, the reasons behind them vary, as does the response from the state. The year 2011 saw a remarkable amount of uprisings; and popular protests throughout the entire Middle East and North Africa. The Change has come to countries like Egypt and Tunisia, while in other countries, namely Libya and Syria, and Yemen, the situation has deteriorated and the civilian suffering has been immense. Attempts to analyze the chain of events and or reasons behind the uprisings have been done with a varying degree of depth and with quite different conclusions. Numerous commentators and scholars have pointed to the presence of unemployment, corruption, police brutality and poverty as triggers of demonstrations that have toppled autocratic regimes. This might very well be so. However, there are several countries that match these criteria that do not see the kind of mass mobilization of people and the resolve to get rid of the leadership. This observation leaves a number of questions unanswered. The Middle East and the North African region have been remarkably resilient towards democratic influences. As the number of democracies increased worldwide between 1972 and 2002, the number of democracies in the Middle East and North Africa actually declined. The region seemed to be locked in a system of one party democracies, weak civil societies, poverty, and low levels of literacy. Further, As Bellin points out all countries (except Turkey), lack a neighboring country that can be considered a successful model of democratic rule (Bellin, 2004). These prerequisites are arguably not ideal for any democratic development, but have not hindered other regions of developing in a democratic direction. Despite a weak civil society, 23 out of 42 Sub-Saharan African countries carried out some level of democratic transition during the late eighties and early nineties. Similarly, the entirety of the economic power was in the hands of the state when the countries of Eastern Europe successfully carried out a democratic transition after the fall of the Berlin Wall (Bellin, 2004). These examples show that despite far from perfect conditions democratization processes have been successfully implemented. However, that scenario has not been the case in the Middle East and North Africa. Many analysts and scholars have highlighted the delicate issue of stability as a contradiction to democracy and democratization in the region. This might have been true, as the region is home to a significant amount of the natural resources that are essential to the rest of the world. That fact might be an explanation to why the likes of Hosni Mubarak, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and Bashar al-Assad were able to cling to power despite their blatant disrespect for democratic procedures and basic rights. This attitude towards the importance of stability was the predominant approach of the western world towards the region has been altered in a deep and profound way, not by any change in focus, or pressure, from the western countries, but from a collective manifestation by the populations of the countries in the region. A case in point is the cautious attitude that President Obama displayed towards the developments in Egypt. The White House phrased its message carefully, making sure that they would not offend Mubarak it was only after Mubarak himself had promised not to run for re-election that Obama articulated that demand. Up until Mubarak’s departure the U.S. and other western powers were vigilant not to be too harsh with their critique, when the events came as far as ousting Mubarak, the tone was of course different. This hypocrisy that has been the modus operandi of a majority of the western powers became evident when the people of Egypt and Tunisia collectively, and...
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