Region: Middle East and North Africa

July 2019, Volume 30, Issue 3

Egyptian Youth’s Digital Dissent

The military-backed regime of President al-Sisi seems secure, but study of the Egyptian internet reveals that the regime has failed to win over the young.

July 2018, Volume 29, Issue 3

Islam and Democracy in Tunisia

The president of Tunisia’s Ennahdha party, Rached Ghannouchi, argues that the solution to extremism is more (not less) freedom and democracy, along with more moderate religious teachings.

October 2017, Volume 28, Issue 4

Iran’s 2017 Election: Waning Democratic Hopes

Wrongly viewed by many media sources as a victory for “reform” and “openness,” the recent presidential election in Iran actually reflected the demoralization and disengagement of the country’s prodemocratic opposition.

April 2017, Volume 28, Issue 2

Jordan and Morocco: The Palace Gambit

Two of the Arab world’s more liberal regimes, the kingdoms of Jordan and Morocco, are sometimes said to be evolving toward democracy. Is this true, and what are the longer-term prospects for these two monarchies?

January 2017, Volume 28, Issue 1

Tunisia’s Islamists and the “Turkish Model”

Ennahda has long felt an especially strong kinship with Turkey’s AKP, which has seen as representing a combination of piety, prosperity, and democratic credibility. How might their relationship be affected by the AKP's more recent authoritarian turn?

April 2016, Volume 27, Issue 2

Turkey’s Two Elections: The AKP Comes Back

In power since 2002, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan seemed as if it might be losing its hold when Turkish voters went to the polls in June 2015. Yet that “hung election” gave way to another contest in November, and the AKP came roaring back.

April 2015, Volume 26, Issue 2

The Authoritarian Resurgence: Iran Abroad

The Iranian regime has sought to recast conventional principles of human rights and political participation by forging alliances with like-minded regimes and by broadcasting its narrative to an international audience.

January 2015, Volume 26, Issue 1

Has the Door Closed on Arab Democracy?

In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, democracy in the Arab world seems farther away today than at any point in the last 25 years. If it is to ever arrive, it will likely be through a more evolutionary and elite-driven process.

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April 2014, Volume 25, Issue 2

Democratic Parliamentary Monarchies

How do democracies emerge from monarchies? In an essay that eminent political scientist Juan J. Linz was working on when he passed away in October 2013, he and his coauthors draw lessons from the European experience about whether and how Arab monarchies might aid or resist democratic development.

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July 2013, Volume 24, Issue 3

Transforming the Arab World’s Protection-Racket Politics

The Arab world’s old autocracies survived by manipulating the sharp identity conflicts in their societies. The division and distrust that this style of rule generated is now making it especially difficult to carry out the kind of pact-making often crucial to successful democratic transitions.

July 2013, Volume 24, Issue 3

Algeria versus the Arab Spring

Not  only  did  the  Algerian  regime  survive  the  “Arab  Spring,”  it  hardly deviated from its normal methods of authoritarian governance—patronage, pseudodemocratization, and effective use of the security apparatus.

July 2013, Volume 24, Issue 3

Bahrain’s Decade of Discontent

When this small island kingdom in the Gulf joined the wider Arab world’s political upheavals in March 2011, it was a reaction to regional events, but also a reflection of internal problems that had been festering for a decade.

July 2013, Volume 24, Issue 3

Jordan: The Ruse of Reform

The Hashemite monarchy still fails to understand the challenges that threaten Jordan’s political order. The old playbook of limited, manipulated reform is no longer enough, but key players fail to realize it.

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January 2013, Volume 24, Issue 1

Arab Democracy or Islamist Revolution?

Although Olivier Roy and others argue that current circumstances will push ascendant Islamist parties in a democratic direction, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood remains committed to the revolutionary goals that have animated it since its beginnings.

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April 2012, Volume 23, Issue 2

The Languages of the Arab Revolutions

The upheavals that have been shaking the Arab-Muslim world are revolutions in discourse as well as in the streets. Arabs are using not only traditional and religious vocabularies, but also a new set of expressions that are modern and represent popular aspirations.

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April 2012, Volume 23, Issue 2

Tunisia’s Transition and the Twin Tolerations

Of all the “Arab Spring” countries, so far only Tunisia has managed to make a transition to democracy. Tunisians now have a chance to show the world a new example of how religion, society, and the state can relate to one another under democratic conditions.

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January 2012, Volume 23, Issue 1

Morocco: Outfoxing the Opposition

Morocco was not immune to the 2011 upheavals in the Arab world, but the country’s monarchy deftly managed the crisis through cosmetic constitutional reform.

January 2012, Volume 23, Issue 1

Turkey Under the AKP: Civil-Military Relations Transformed

Recent years have seen a transformation in Turkish civil-military relations—away from the traditional picture of weak elected officials overseen by a strong military, to one of a strengthened civilian government and a military with decreased influence. This article explores the questions of how this transformation has occurred, whether it will last, and what it indicates…

January 2012, Volume 23, Issue 1

Turkey Under the AKP: Are Civil Liberties Safe?

In the West, Turkey is considered a model for a secular democracy in the Muslim world, yet the country finds itself mired in a crisis of civil rights and liberties under a third term of the pro-Islamic AKP government. Ironically, while the government maintains a discourse on political reform—including constitutional amendments—the country is bitterly divided…

January 2012, Volume 23, Issue 1

Turkey Under the AKP: The Kurdish Question

Turkish state policy toward the Kurds, the Republic of Turkey’s largest ethnic minority, has evolved from denial and mandatory assimilation to cultural recognition to acknowledgement of the Kurds’ contested status as a political problem demanding political solutions. The election of 36 Kurdish-nationalist lawmakers, most of whom now sit in parliament as representatives of the Peace…

October 2011, Volume 22, Issue 4

Comparing the Arab Revolts: The Global Context

Although the Arab revolts have a long way to go before they can be counted as gains for democracy, they do underline what is perhaps democracy’s greatest source of strength worldwide—its superior legitimacy.

January 2011, Volume 22, Issue 1

The Split in Arab Culture

A powerful “salafist” public norm has taken root in the Arab world, becoming the main symbol of resistance to Westernization. At the same time, however, new cultural forces in the private domain are promoting a dynamic of secularization.

January 2011, Volume 22, Issue 1

Arab Islamist Parties: Losing on Purpose?

In most Arab countries, Islamist groups are the only ones with the popular support needed to win free and fair elections. Yet Islamist parties have shown an ambivalence about and in some cases even an aversion to seeking power via the ballot box.

October 2010, Volume 21, Issue 4

Yemen’s Multiple Crises

Yemen today finds itself gripped by a set of crises that threatens its very unity as a country. Only a turn toward democratic dialogue offers a way out.

July 2010, Volume 21, Issue 3

Afghanistan: An Election Gone Awry

The 2009 vote for the presidency and local councils was marred by fraud, provoking a political crisis and casting a deep shadow over upcoming parliamentary elections. The Afghan experience calls into question whether voting should occur before other essential reforms are in place.

July 2010, Volume 21, Issue 3

Iraq: A Vote Against Sectarianism

Although many Iraqi parties continue to be organized along religious or ethnic lines, both the tone and the results of the 2010 parliamentary election campaign show that most Iraqi voters prefer a broader national agenda over narrow sectarian appeals.

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July 2010, Volume 21, Issue 3

Lessons from Afghanistan and Iraq

After almost ten years of complex and costly efforts to build democracy in these two countries, where do things stand? What lay behind the critical choices that shaped events in these places, and what are their current prospects for success?

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April 2010, Volume 21, Issue 2

Do Muslims Vote Islamic?

Those who warn against efforts to promote free elections in Muslim-majority countries often point to the threat posed by Islamic parties that stand ready to use democracy against itself. But what does the record really show regarding the ability of Islamic parties to win over Muslim voters?

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January 2010, Volume 21, Issue 1

Why Are There No Arab Democracies?

Democracy has held its own or gained ground in just about every part of the world except for the Arab Middle East. Why has this crucial region remained such infertile soil for democracy?

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October 2009, Volume 20, Issue 4

Iran in Ferment: Civil Society’s Choice

When students and other rights activists decided to seize a tactical opening that the regime cynically offered them during the 2009 campaign, they were making a choice that was even more fateful than they knew.

October 2009, Volume 20, Issue 4

Jordan: Ten More Years of Autocracy

Jordan gets much good press for having one of the more open and liberal regimes in the Arab world, but that reputation masks a considerably grimmer reality.

July 2008, Volume 19, Issue 3

Islamist Parties and Democracy: Are They Democrats? Does It Matter?

The journalistic and policy communities have been alive with speculation as to whether Islamist groups involved in politics—including Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Palestine’s Hamas— are true believers in democracy or calculating pragmatists who, in Steven Cook’s words, are “seeking to use democratic procedures in order to advance an antidemocratic agenda.”

July 2008, Volume 19, Issue 3

Islamist Parties and Democracy: Turkey’s AKP in Power

The rise of Islamist parties poses new challenges to efforts to understand the relationship between Islam and democracy. A diverse group of authors investigates this new phenomenon and its implications for the future of democracy in the Middle East.

July 2008, Volume 19, Issue 3

Islamist Parties and Democracy: Participation Without Power

The debate on the compatibility of Islamism and democracy has tended to focus on two main scenarios. In the first, Islamist political parties become agents for democratization through their participation in freely held elections. In the second, Islamists use the democratic process to gain control and establish an antidemocratic regime—the feared “one man, one vote,…

July 2008, Volume 19, Issue 3

Islamist Parties and Democracy: Institutions Make the Difference

Political Islam is often cited as the key challenge to democratization in Muslim nations, but deep currents of authoritarianism may prove more of an obstacle. Traditions of monarchy, military rule, and weak civic institutions block the path of democratic transition throughout the Muslim world. Political Islam does of course present challenges of its own, such…

July 2008, Volume 19, Issue 3

Islamist Parties and Democracy: Why They Can’t be Democratic

This article makes a case of the basic distinction between Islam and Islamism and presents three central arguments: 1. through religious reforms and a rethinking of the Islamic doctrine, the cultural system of Islam can be put in harmony with democracy, 2. this (first) argument does not apply to Islamism (political Islam) for the simple…

July 2008, Volume 19, Issue 3

Islamist Parties and Democracy: A Boon or a Bane for Democracy?

What role do mainstream Islamist movements play in Arab politics? With their popular messages and broad social base, would their incorporation as normal political actors be the best hope for democratization or democracy’s bane? For too long, we have tried to answer such questions solely by speculating about the true intentions of the movements and…

January 2008, Volume 19, Issue 1

Taming Extremist Parties: Lessons from Europe

The history of twentieth-century European communist parties shows that extremists can be moderated by robust democratic institutions. Without them, however, the inclusion of extremist parties may undermine democracy.

January 2008, Volume 19, Issue 1

Morocco’s Elections: A Dynamic Civil Society

Since the 1990s, Moroccan civil society groups have been proliferating, and they are increasingly influential in addressing society-wide matters including the rights of women, ethnic minorities, and the poor.

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January 2008, Volume 19, Issue 1

Turkey Divided

Events surrounding Turkey's 2007 elections reveal a country with a vibrantly democratic political sphere and a society badly split over the role of Islam in national life.

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April 2007, Volume 18, Issue 2

Toward Muslim Democracies

About two-thirds of the world's Muslims live under governments chosen through competitive elections. The remaining third lives mostly in the Arab world, a region that poses the hardest challenges for democratization.

October 2006, Volume 17, Issue 4

Exchange: Arab Political Pacts: An Unlikely Scenario

Middle Eastern realities and scholarship on democratic transitions both suggest that formally negotiated deals between authoritarian rulers and liberal opposition forces are unlikely to provide the path to change in the Arab world.

October 2006, Volume 17, Issue 4

Exchange: Mistaking Data for “Theory”

We should neither be too hasty to discount the prodemocratic political ferment in the Arab world, nor be fooled into thinking that Islamist groups will play a constructive part in democratic transitions.

July 2006, Volume 17, Issue 3

The Palestinian Elections: Beyond Hamas and Fatah

January’s remarkably free and fair parliamentary elections broke the PLO’s longstanding monopoly over Palestinian politics. Given Fatah’s disarray and the difficulties facing Hamas, there is now a window of opportunity for a third and avowedly liberal-democratic option to emerge.