Getting to Arab Democracy: Dealing with Communalism

Issue Date January 2006
Volume 17
Issue 1
Page Numbers 51-62
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The ethnic-communal factor has frequently been neglected in analyses of the prospects for democracy in the Middle East. Virtually every state in the region has major minority groups which have interests not identical with those of the governing group. Groups that believe their communities can win elections are going to be more favorable toward democracy than those certain they would lose. Any successful democracy has to work out a system of balancing these ethno-religious forces. But the complex structure of communities can also contribute to democracy if it offers a pluralist approach in which groups must make deals and compromises to meet their needs.