Rabat- Since their first encounters with Western civilization in the 18th and 19th centuries, Arab intellectuals have been preoccupied with trying to explain the causes of the West’s progress and their countries’ own slow development
Among the interpretations provided are ones that attributed the region’s malaise to political despotism. Dictatorship has been holding the region back and depriving it from achieving economic progress and social welfare, and ensuring civil rights and freedoms for everyone.
The shift from authoritarian regimes to more democratic ones has been a deterred dream for both Arab intelligentsia and the masses. The reasons surrounding why such a transition couldn’t have been made are still subject to speculations and debate.
Moving towards democracy has proved a hard task for Arab nations even after the revolutions and popular uprisings of “Arab Spring” which toppled authoritarian regimes for the first time in the region’s history.
After creating an illusion of promising a better future, the “Spring” turned extremely disappointing for the Arab masses. The disillusion was so great that many are now regretting the times they lived under their former dictators. The Arab Spring didn’t simply bringfor these countries a better economic situation; it, instead, manifested into a state of chaos where Arab nations’ security and stability are at stake.
In the three Arab countries where former dictators were ousted, namely Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, things are not necessarily better now than when people took to the streets to ask their former rulers to leave.
Tunisia’s political transition is threatened by governmental coalition and the opposition’s failure to reach a consensus. The Islamist-led government is increasingly under fire by an opposition apparently hardened by what happened in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood was forcibly ousted from government by the country’s powerful military.
Tunisia’s Islamists are afraid the Egyptian scenario will be reproduced at home with the only difference being that the Ministry of Interior, accused of being perpetually under the influence of members of the former regime, is the one more likely to intervene. The country has reached a high level of polarization between government and opposition which threatens to blow away the political transition and cause more damage to an already fragile economy.
In Egypt a new “dictator” is being prepared to take over as the country’s next president. General Abdelfatah Al Sisi, who led the military crackdown against Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters, is now urged by many to run for president. If such a scenario ever happens, the country will take a huge step backward.
No matter what we think of Muhamed Morsi, at least he was the first civilian and democratically elected president in Egypt’s history. With Al Sisi as head of state, the country will be reproducing another military president, just like Gamal Abdelanssar, Anwar El Sadat and Hosni Mubarak, who won’t likely be keen on holding elections or be content with two terms in office as is the case in other democracies If elected, Al Sisi will be probably remain president for life, where the only options are that he concedes power by natural death or a military coup. What’s more puzzling is that a large number of Egyptians are contributing to creating exactly the kind of ruler they rose up against.
In Libya the situation is chaotic. The country is utterly failing to establish strong state institutions. Armed militias are forcibly imposing their will, refusing to give up arms and be integrated in the state police and army or keep away from politics.
The Arab Spring, however, did not just affect North Africa. Revolutionary fervor reverberated across the Middle East as well. Continued tensions brought more violence to Palestine and Israel, protests broke out in Lebanon, the Yemeni people rose up against their government, and, in Syria, rebel forces reached a breaking point in their clashes with the Assad regime, a point that has led to more harm than good.
The situation in Syria is getting worse. The country is further torn apart in a war of “all against all.” Clearly the hideous regime of Bashar Al Assad isn’t crueler than the radical jihadist factions which are leading armed rebellion. Western claims of wanting to help Arab people reach their aspirations of freedom are revealed to be hypocritical. Syrian people’s uprising, which was at first a quest for basic rights and freedoms, is now taking on the ugly aspect of a sectarian and civil war.
In other Arab countries where there were fewer demonstrations and no radical demands, people are probably thinking they made the right choice. Turning against one’s ruler proved not to be a safe move in Arab context.
With such a state of mind, democracy will perhaps come at a slower pace than originally thought–as if Arabs don’t seem yet to be fully prepared to take such a risk.
In the meantime Arab world continues to be caught between despotism and chaos, not knowing how to break free from such an infernal duo.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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