Say (O Muhammad ) : "He is Allah, (the) One"Allah-us-Samad (The Self-Sufficient Master, Whom all creatures need, He neither eats nor drinks)."He begets not, nor was He begotten;"And there is none co-equal or comparable unto Him." (surah al-ikhlas,al-quran)

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said,

"Almighty Allah says, "I am –absolutely- in no need of partners. Whoever does a deed for the sake of others as well as Me, I leave that person and that deed." (Muslim)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Political Reform in the Arab World Why Are There No Arab Democracies? A Western Perspective

2 respon
During democratization’s “third wave,” democracy ceased being a mostly Western phenomenon and “went global.” When the third wave began in 1974, the world had only about 40 democracies, and only a few of them lay outside the West. By the time the Journal of Democracy began publishing in 1990, there were 76 electoral democracies (accounting for slightly less than half the world’s independent states). By 1995, that number had shot up to 117—three in every five states. By then, a critical mass of democracies existed in every major world region save one—the Middle East.(1)  Moreover, every one of the world’s major cultural realms had become host to a significant democratic presence, albeit again with a single exception—the Arab world.(2) Fifteen years later, this exception still stands.

The continuing absence of even a single democratic regime in the Arab world is a striking anomaly—the principal exception to the globalization of democracy. Why is there no Arab democracy? Indeed, why is it the case that among the sixteen independent Arab states of the Middle East and coastal North Africa, Lebanon is the only one to have ever been a democracy?

The most common assumption about the Arab democracy deficit is that it must have something to do with religion or culture. After all, the one thing that all Arab countries share is that they are Arab. They speak the same language (at least to the extent that they share the lingua franca of classical Arabic), and it is often suggested that there are cultural beliefs, structures, and practices more or less common to all countries of the region. Moreover, they share the same predominant religion, namely Islam—though Lebanon has historically been about half (though it is now less than half) Christian, and other countries, such as Egypt, also have significant Christian minorities. But as I will show, neither culture nor religion offers a convincing explanation for the Arab democracy deficit. Maybe countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Yemen are not democracies because they are not yet economically developed. Yet this argument fails once one compares the development levels of Arab and non-Arab states, as I will shortly do. Perhaps the perverse sociopolitical effects of being so awash in petrochemical deposits (the so-called oil curse) is the reason—but how does that explain the lack of democracy in non-oil-rich Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia?
As I will explain, answering the riddle of the Arab democracy deficit does involve political economy—as well as geopolitics. And it demands analysis of the internal political structures of Arab states. But first it requires dispensing with assumptions that cannot stand the test of evidence.
Religion and Culture
There is a big “freedom gap” between the Arab and non-Arab Muslim-majority states 
As Alfred Stepan and Graeme Robertson have shown in these pages, there is a big “democracy gap” among states in the world, but it is an Arab much more than a “Muslim” gap. Comparing the 16 Muslim-majority countries that are predominantly Arab with 29 other Muslim-majority countries, Stepan and Robertson find among the latter a number (including Albania, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Senegal, and Turkey) with significant records of extending reasonably democratic political rights to their citizens. Among the Arab countries, the only one that meets this description is Lebanon before the civil war that began in 1975. Moreover, taking account of the level of political rights that one might predict from the level of per capita income, they find numerous “electoral overachievers” among the Muslim-majority states that are not predominantly Arab, and none among the Arab states.(3)  My own further and more recent analysis uncovers the following additional points. First, if we ask whether regimes meet the minimum test of electoral democracy (free and fair elections to determine who rules), then there are eight non-Arab Muslim-majority states rated by Freedom House as democracies today, and zero Arab ones.(4) Second, there is a big “freedom gap” between the Arab and non-Arab Muslim-majority states. At the end of 2008, the sixteen Arab states of the Middle East had an average score across the two Freedom House scales of 5.53 (the worst-possible score is a 7, signaling “least free”). The other thirty Muslim-majority states had an average freedom score of 4.7.(5)  A difference between two such groups of nearly a full point on a seven-point scale is substantial. Moreover, while eleven of the non-Arab countries (about a third) are at the midpoint (4) or better on the average freedom scale, among the Arab states only Kuwait rates that well.
So much for religion, what about culture? One could argue, as the late British historian Elie Kedourie did in 1992, that there is “nothing in the political traditions of the Arab world—which are the political traditions of Islam—which might make familiar, or indeed intelligible, the organizing ideas of constitutional and representative government.”(6)  But outside the Arab world a number of countries with Muslim political traditions have had some significant experiences with democracy. And even if one were to omit Kedourie’s equation of Arab and Islamic political traditions, one would still need to explain why the alien “organizing ideas” of modern democracy have taken hold in a number of countries in Africa and Asia for which there really were no precedents, but not in the Arab world. If the problem, as Kedourie went on, is that Arab countries “had been accustomed to . . . autocracy and passive obedience,” why has this remained an insurmountable obstacle in the Arab world while it has not prevented democratization in large swaths of the rest of the world that had once also known only authoritarian domination?
Not only is support for democracy very broad in the Arab world, but it does not vary by degree of religiosity 
It could also be argued—and has been regarding both Iraq and Lebanon—that sectarian and ethnic divisions run too deep to permit democracy in these countries. Yet Iraq and Lebanon—for all their fractious, polarized divisions—are the two Arab countries closest to full electoral democracy today, while two of the most homogeneous countries, Egypt and Tunisia, are also two of the most authoritarian. In fact, ethnic or religious differences hardly pose a more severe obstacle to democracy in the Arab world than they do in countries such as Ghana, India, Indonesia, and South Africa. Again, something else must be going on.   Maybe it is that Arab populations simply do not want or value electoral democracy the way mass publics have come to desire and value this form of self-government in other regions of the world.(7) But then how do we account for the overwhelming shares of Arab publics—well over 80 percent in Algeria, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, and even Iraq—who agree that “despite drawbacks, democracy is the best system of government,” and that “having a democratic system would be good for our country”?(8) Not only is support for democracy very broad in the Arab world, but it does not vary by degree of religiosity. “In fact, more religious Muslims are as likely as less religious Muslims to believe that democracy, despite is drawbacks, is the best political system.”(9)  Look at the way Iraqis turned out to vote three times in 2005, amid widespread and dire risks to their physical safety, and it is hard to conclude that Arabs do not care about democracy. By contrast, when elections (as in Egypt) offer little meaningful choice, or where (as in Morocco) they are of little consequence in determining who will really rule, it is not surprising that most people become disillusioned and opt not to vote.
Beneath the aggregate figures of Arab support for democracy, however, lies a more complex story. In five countries surveyed between 2003 and 2006 by the Arab Barometer, 56 percent of respondents agreed that “men of religion should have influence over government decisions.”(10) A survey done in 2003 and 2004 also found half or more of four Arab publics agreeing that the government should implement as law nothing but Islamic shari‘a. When support for democracy and support for some kind of Islamic form of government are cross-tabulated, the generic pattern is something like this: 40 to 45 percent of each public supports secular democracy while roughly the same proportion backs an Islamic form of democracy; meanwhile 5 to 10 percent of the public supports secular authoritarianism and the same proportion supports Islamic authoritarianism.(11)
Here is where religion and attitudes do enter in as relevant factors. We do not yet know, on the basis of the Arab Barometer data to date, what proportion of those who opt both for “democracy” and for Islamic influence in government favor an understanding of democracy that includes as an essential not only majority rule but also minority rights—including the right of the minority to try to become the majority in the next election. The evidence examined by Amaney Jamal and Mark Tessler suggests that proponents of secular democracy vary little from their compatriots who back Islamic democracy when it comes to support for democratic values such as openness, tolerance, and equality, with the qualification that secular democrats seem modestly more liberal when it comes to racial tolerance and the rights of women. Jamal and Tessler conclude hopefully that Arabs value democracy, even if their concern for stability leads them to want it to come only gradually, and that neither religious politics nor personal religiosity pose a major obstacle.
They fear that this Islamist alternative would produce “one person, one vote, one time” before hijacking an electoral democratic revolution 
But there remains one problem. Among the secular democrats in the Arab world are the kinds of middle-class liberal intellectuals, professionals, and businessmen who have pressed for democracy elsewhere around the globe. Many of these secular democrats (some of whom are also members of religious or ethnic minorities) are not sifting through Arab Barometer survey data regarding what their fellow citizens believe. These democrats are instead imagining what the imminent political alternative would be to the authoritarian regime they dislike. They fear that it would not be some modestly Islamist version of a resolutely constitutional democracy, but rather a regime dominated by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the Jordanian Islamic Action Front, or some other hard-line and antidemocratic Islamist political force—a new and more ominous hegemony. Further, they fear that this Islamist alternative would produce “one person, one vote, one time” before hijacking an electoral democratic revolution much as the Ayatollah Khomeini hijacked the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Or they fear that a last-minute effort to prevent that prospect would plunge their country into the horrific scenario of Algeria in 1991, when the military seized control to stop the Islamic Salvation Front from winning national elections, touching off an almost decade-long civil war that claimed perhaps 150,000 lives. One need not justify the choice made by Algeria’s political and military elites then, and in the brutal years that followed, in order to recognize the obstacle to democratization inherent in the fear of radical Islam as the alternative waiting just offstage should a current regime collapse. In recent decades, there has been only one parallel elsewhere: the fear of a radical leftwing or “communist” electoral takeover. It is no coincidence that in those countries (in Latin America, and South Africa) where this fear gripped authoritarian rulers and some of their liberal opponents, elites proved willing to negotiate transitions to democracy only when the prospect of the antidemocratic left conquering power had dissipated as a result of brutal suppression or the end of the Cold War. Economic Development and Social Structure
It remains the case, as Seymour Martin Lipset argued fifty years ago, that the more well-to-do a country is, the better will be its prospects for gaining and keeping democracy. By now, however, many Arab countries are quite “well-to-do.” If we compare per capita income levels (in 2007 purchasing power parity dollars), Kuwait is nearly as rich as Norway, Bahrain is on a par with France, Saudi Arabia with Korea, Oman with Portugal, and Lebanon with Costa Rica. Only Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Syria, and Yemen fall toward the lower end, but still these countries are no poorer in per capita terms than India or Indonesia, where democracy functions despite a lack of broad prosperity.
Most are so awash in cash that they do not need to tax their own citizens. And that is part of the problem—they fail to develop the organic expectations of accountability that emerge when states make citizens pay taxes 
Of course, per capita income figures can be deceiving. The distribution of income can be badly skewed—and it is in the Arab world. Moreover, oil countries in particular look on the surface much more developed than they are. Most rank much lower on “human development” than they do in per capita monetary income (Saudi Arabia ranks 31 places lower; Algeria, 19). Still, when we look at levels of human development (which take into account education and health as well), the richest Arab oil states are at least on a par with Portugal and Hungary, while Saudi Arabia ranks with Bulgaria and Panama. And turning to Arab states with little or no oil to export, we see that Egypt still ranks with Indonesia, and Morocco with South Africa. In other words, one can find at any level of development, and by any measure, numerous democracies that are about as developed as the respective Arab non-democracies. If the problem is not economic level, maybe it is economic structure. Of the sixteen Arab countries, eleven are “rentier” states in the sense that they depend heavily on oil and gas rents (in essence, unearned income) to keep their states afloat. These eleven states derive more than 70 percent (in some cases more than 90 percent) of their export earnings from oil and gas. Most are so awash in cash that they do not need to tax their own citizens. And that is part of the problem—they fail to develop the organic expectations of accountability that emerge when states make citizens pay taxes. As Samuel P. Huntington observed in The Third Wave:
Oil revenues accrue to the state: they therefore increase the power of the state bureaucracy and, because they reduce or eliminate the need for taxation, they also reduce the need for the government to solicit the acquiescence of its subjects to taxation. The lower the level of taxation, the less reason for publics to demand representation. “No taxation without representation” was a political demand; “no representation without taxation” is a political reality.(12)
There is much more to the oil curse than just big states and apathetic citizens. Oil states are not merely big—they are heavily centralized too, since oil wealth accrues to the central state. They are usually also intensely policed, since there is plenty of money to lavish on a huge and active state-security apparatus. They are profoundly corrupt, because the money pours into central-state coffers as rents, and it is really “nobody’s money” (certainly no one’s tax money), so it is—in a warped normative sense—“free” for the taking. In these systems, the state is large, centralized, and repressive. It may support any number of bloated bureaucracies as de facto jobs programs meant to buy political peace with government paychecks. Civil society is weak and coopted. And what passes for the market economy is severely distorted. Real entrepreneurship is scarcely evident, since most people in “business” service the state or its oil sector, or otherwise feed off government contracts or represent foreign companies.
Where oil dominates, there is little wealth creation through investment and risk-taking, for why take risks when there are steady profits to be made at no risk? And then there are the other grim dimensions of the “paradox of plenty,” such as the boom-and-bust cycles that go with dependence on primary commodities, as well as the more general tendency for windfall mineral rents to smother or preempt the development of industry and agriculture (the so-called Dutch Disease). These consequences are only avoided when vigorous market economies and well-developed, accountable states and taxation systems are in place before oil revenues flood in (as for example in Norway and Britain).(13)
There is, then, an economic basis for the absence of democracy in the Arab world. But it is structural. It has to do with the ways in which oil distorts the state, the market, the class structure, and the entire incentive structure. Particularly in an era of high global oil prices, the effects of the oil curse are relentless: Not a single one of the 23 countries that derive most of their export earnings from oil and gas is a democracy today. And for many Arab countries, the oil curse will not be lifted any time soon: The Arab Middle East is home to five of the nine countries with the largest oil reserves, with the five together accounting for just over 46 percent of the world’s proven reserves.(14) Authoritarian Statecraft
Two key pillars of Arab authoritarianism are political. They encompass the patterns and institutions by which authoritarian regimes manage their politics and keep their hold on power, along with the external forces that help to sustain their rule. These authoritarian structures and practices are not unique to the Arab world, but Arab rulers have raised them to a high pitch of refinement, and wield them with unusual skill. Although the typical Arab state may not be efficient in everyday ways, its mukhabarat (secret-police and intelligence apparatus) is normally amply funded, technically sophisticated, highly penetrating, legally unrestrained, and splendidly poised to benefit from extensive cooperation with peer institutions in the region as well as Western intelligence agencies. More broadly, “these states are the world leaders in terms of proportion
of GNP spent on security.”(15)

Yet most Arab autocracies do not rely on unmitigated coercion and fear to survive. Rather, repression is selective and heavily mixed with (and thus often concealed by) mechanisms of representation, consultation, and cooptation. Limited pluralistic elections play an important role in about half the sixteen Arab autocracies. As Daniel Brumberg wrote in these pages seven years ago:
Liberalized autocracy has proven far more durable than once imagined. The trademark mixture of guided pluralism, controlled elections, and selective repression in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Algeria, and Kuwait is not just a ‘survival strategy’ adopted by the authoritarian regimes, but rather a type of political system whose institutions, rule, and logic defy any linear model of democratization.(16)
Indeed, in such systems even liberalization is not linear but rather cyclical and adaptive. When pressure mounts, both from within the society and from outside, the regime loosens its constraints and allows more civic activity and a more open electoral arena—until political opposition appears as if it may grow too serious and effective. Then the regime returns to more heavy-handed methods of rigging elections, shrinking political space, and arresting the usual suspects. The electoral arena in these states is thus something like a huge pair of political lungs, breathing in (at times deeply and excitedly) and expanding, but then inevitably exhaling and contracting when limits are reached.
Parliaments that result from these limited elections have no real power to legislate or govern, as more or less unlimited authority continues to reside with hereditary kings and imperial presidents 
The political trajectory that Egypt followed in 2004 and 2005 was a perfect illustration of this dynamic. The aging autocrat, President Hosni Mubarak, was coming under growing domestic pressure from an unusually broad opposition coalition known as Kifaya (meaning “enough”— which succinctly summed up the country’s mood), as well as from U.S. president George W. Bush, who was also pushing for more open and competitive presidential and legislative elections. Reluctantly, Mubarak agreed to allow a contested presidential election and then more transparent legislative elections in 2005. But the presidential “contest” was still grossly unfair, and within three months of the vote (which official figures claim was won by the incumbent with 88.6 percent) Mubarak’s opponent, Ayman Nour, was sentenced to five years in prison. By then, the regime had also intervened in the second and third rounds of the parliamentary elections to undermine independent administration of the vote, neutralize civil society monitors, and halt the tempo of opposition victories by Muslim Brotherhood candidates running as de jure “independents.” Not long thereafter, the ruling party embarked on a campaign of constitutional “reform” to ensure against any political “accidents” in the future, while a demoralized and divided opposition, weakened by arrests and intimidation, watched helplessly with little in the way of concrete support from the Bush administration. The institutional maneuver was part of a general Arab pattern of “managed reform,” in which Arab autocracies adopt the language of political reform in order to avoid the reality, or embrace limited economic and social reforms to pursue modernization without democratization.(17)  To the extent that political competition and pluralism are allowed in these Arab regimes (which include Algeria, Jordan, Kuwait, and Morocco as well as Egypt), it is within rules and parameters carefully drawn to ensure that regime opponents are disadvantaged and disempowered. Electoral practices (such as Jordan’s use of the Single Non-Transferrable Vote, or SNTV) are chosen and tilted to privilege personal ties and tribal candidates over organized political parties, especially Islamist ones.(18)  Parliaments that result from these limited elections have no real power to legislate or govern, as more or less unlimited authority continues to reside with hereditary kings and imperial presidents.
Yet opposition parties face serious costs whether they boycott these semi-charades or take part in them. If oppositionists participate in elections and parliament, they risk becoming coopted—or at least being seen as such by a cynical and disaffected electorate. Yet if they boycott the “inside game” of electoral and parliamentary politics, the “outside game” of protest and resistance offers little realistic prospect of influence, let alone power. Caught on the horns of such dilemmas, political oppositions in the Arab world become divided, suspicious, and torn from within. They are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Even the Islamists in countries such as Egypt, Kuwait, and Morocco are fragmented into different camps, along moderate and militant (as well as other tactical and factional) lines. Islamist parties that stand resolutely outside the system, while building up social-welfare networks and religious and ideological ties at the grassroots, garner long-term bases of popular support. Secular parties, by contrast, look marginal, halting and feckless. “Caught between regimes that allow little legal space . . . and popular Islamist movements that are clearly in the ascendancy . . . they are struggling for influence and relevance, and in some cases even for survival.”(19)
The Coils of Geopolitics
Two other external factors further reinforce the internal hegemony of Arab autocracies. One is the Arab-Israeli conflict, which hangs like a toxic miasma over Middle Eastern political life 
The unfavorable geopolitical situation confronting Arab democracy extends well beyond the overwhelming factor of oil, though oil drives much of the major powers’ interest in the region. External support for Arab regimes, historically coming in part from the Soviet Union but now mainly from Europe and the United States, confers on Arab autocracies crucial economic resources, security assistance, and political legitimacy. In these circumstances, for non-oil regimes such as Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco, foreign aid is like oil: another source of rents that regimes use for survival. Like oil, aid flows into the central coffers of the state and helps to give it the means both to coopt and to repress. Since 1975, U.S. “development” assistance to Egypt has totaled more than $28 billion, not including the nearly $50 billion that has flowed to that country in unconditional military aid since the 1978 Camp David Peace Accords.(20) Less well known is the huge flow of U.S. economic and military aid to the much less populous state of Jordan, which has taken in an average of $650 million per year since 2001. “Western aid makes possible the regime’s key political strategy of spending massively on public jobs without imposing steep taxes. From 2001 through 2006, the foreign assistance that Jordan raked in accounted for 27 percent of all domestic revenues.”(21) Two other external factors further reinforce the internal hegemony of Arab autocracies. One is the Arab-Israeli conflict, which hangs like a toxic miasma over Middle Eastern political life. It provides a ready and convenient means of diverting public frustration away from the corruption and human-rights abuses of Arab regimes, turning citizen anger outward to focus on what Arab private and state-run media alike depict emotively as Israeli oppression of the Palestinians—and by symbolic extension, the entire Arab people. Protests over the failings of Arab regimes themselves—the poor quality of education and social services, the lack of jobs, transparency, accountability, and freedom—are banned, but Arab publics can vent their anger in the press and on the streets in the one realm where it is safe: condemnation of Israel.
The second external factor is the other Arab states themselves, who reinforce one another in their authoritarianism and their techniques of monitoring, rigging, and repression, and who over the decades have turned the 22-member Arab League into an unapologetic autocrats’ club. Of all the major regional organizations, the Arab League is the most bereft of democratic norms and means for promoting or encouraging them. In fact, its charter, which has not been amended in half a century, lacks any mention of democracy or individual rights. Beyond all this is the lack of even a single clear example of Arab democracy, which means that there is no source of democratic diffusion or emulation anywhere inside the Arab world. Even in a globalized era, this matters: Throughout the third wave, demonstration effects have been “strongest among countries that were geographically proximate and culturally similar.”(22)
Will Anything Change?
Three factors could precipitate democratic change across the region 
Is the Arab world simply condemned to an indefinite future of authoritarian rule? I do not think so. Even the beginnings of a change in U.S. foreign policy during the years from 2003 to 2005 encouraged political opening and at least gave space for popular democratic mobilization in countries such as Egypt, Lebanon, and Morocco, as well as the Palestinian Authority. Although most of these openings have partly or fully closed for the time being, at least Arab oppositions and civil societies had some taste of what democratic politics might look like. Opinion surveys suggest that they clearly want more, and new social-media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, the blogosphere, and the mobile-phone revolution are giving Arabs new opportunities to express themselves and to mobilize.   Three factors could precipitate democratic change across the region. One would be the emergence of a single democratic polity in the region, particularly in a country that might be seen as a model. That role would be difficult for Lebanon to play, given its extremely complicated factions and consociational fragmentation of power, as well as the continuing heavy involvement of Syria in its politics. But were Iraq to progress politically, first by democratically electing a new government this year and then by having it function decently and peacefully as U.S. forces withdraw, that could gradually change perceptions in the region. Egypt also bears watching, as the sun slowly sets on the 81-year-old Hosni Mubarak’s three decades of personal rule. Whether or not his 46-year-old son Gamal succeeds him, the regime will experience new stresses and needs for adaptation when this modern-day pharaoh passes from the scene.
Second would be a change in U.S. policy to resume principled engagement and more extensive practical assistance to encourage and press for democratic reforms, not just in the electoral realm but with respect to enhancing judicial independence and governmental transparency as well as expanding freedom of the press and civil society. If this were pursued in a more modest tone, and reinforced to some degree by European pressure, it could help to rejuvenate and protect domestic political forces that are now dispirited and in disarray. But to proceed along this path, the United States and its European allies would have to overcome their undifferentiated view of Islamist parties and engage those Islamist actors who would be willing to commit more clearly to
liberal-democratic norms.

The biggest game changer would be a prolonged, steep decline in world oil prices (say to half of current levels). Although the smallest of the Gulf oil kingdoms would remain rich at any conceivable price, the bigger countries such as Saudi Arabia (population 29 million) would find it necessary to broach the question of a new political bargain with their own burgeoning (and very young) publics. Algeria and Iran would come under even greater pressure, and while Iran is not an Arab state, it has an Arab minority, and one should not underestimate the felicitous impact on Arab democratic prospects of a democratic transition in a major Middle Eastern country that also contains the region’s only example of a full-blown Islamist regime. When one looks at what has happened to democracy in Nigeria, Russia, and Venezuela as the price of oil has soared in recent years, the policy imperative for driving down the price of oil becomes even more compelling. Before too much longer, however, accelerating climate change is likely to compel a much more radical response to this challenge. When the global revolution in energy technology hits with full force, finally breaking the oil cartel, it will bring a decisive end to Arab political exceptionalism.

2 respon:

Anonymous says:
February 22, 2010 at 11:41 PM

Damn I was going to buy a new Hummer in late 2012 and drive around the country for a vacation, Now I am going to have to shave my head and join the Hari.s, Muslims, Jews, Jehovah s, Mormons, Christians, and a few other wing nut groups just to cover all my bases.
]Light Beings
[/url] - some truth about 2012

Anonymous says:
February 25, 2010 at 1:19 AM

Survival group against God?? LOL. Good luck with that. Truth is, no one knows the exact time this will happen except the man upstairs, however, I firmly believe that there are people placed here by God that post the warning signs and it's up to you to take heed.
[/url] - some truth about 2012

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