MIDDLE EAST DEMOCRACY
Marina Ottaway, Thomas Carothers
Foreign Policy; Nov/Dec2004 Issue 145, p22-28, 6p
MIDDLE EAST DEMOCRACY
People in the Middle East want political freedom, and their governments acknowledge the need for reform. Yet the
region appears to repel democracy. Arab regimes only concede women's rights and elections to appease their critics at
home and abroad. If democracy arrives in the Middle East, it won't be due to the efforts of liberal activists or their
Western supporters but to the very same Islamist parties that many now see as the chief obstacle to change.
The Middle East Is the Last Holdout Against the Global Democratic Trend”
The Middle East is on the wrong side of the global democratic divide, but unfortunately it does not lack company.
As Russia slides into authoritarianism, the former Soviet Union is becoming a democratic wasteland with only a few
shaky pockets of pluralism, such as Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova. Central Asia is no better off than the Arab world in
terms of democracy. A depressingly large swath of East and Southeast Asia from North Korea and China down through
Vietnam, Laos, and Burma to Malaysia and Singapore--is a democracy-free zone that shows few signs of change.
Nor was the Middle East immune to the "Third Wave," the decisive expansion of democracy that started in southern
Europe and Latin America 30 years ago and subsequently spread to other parts of the world. During the 1980s, several
Arab countries, including Egypt, Tunisia, and Jordan, initiated political reforms to permit multiparty competition. These
reforms lost momentum or were undone in the 1990s, however, as Arab leaders proved unwilling to risk their own
power through genuine processes of democratization. Tunisia, for example, moved back to rigid authoritarian rule.
Today, political reform is percolating again in the region, amid growing public frustration over chronic corruption, poor
socioeconomic performance, and a pervasive sense of stagnation. The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks also created
pressure for reform--from both the United States and some Arabs who began to question why their societies were so
widely viewed as dangerous political cesspools. Talk about political reform and democracy is rife even in the Gulf
monarchies where such issues had been taboo. The steps taken thus far in most countries, however, are modest.
Although the Arab world is not impervious to political change, it has yet to truly begin the process of democratization.
"Democracy in the Middle East Is Impossible Until the Arab-Israeli Conflict Is Resolved”