• Research
  • October 5, 2007
  • 7 minutes read

Pushback or Progress? Arab Regimes Respond to Democracy’s Challenge

Pushback or Progress? Arab Regimes Respond to Democracy”s Challenge
Barry Rubin

Format: PDF, 26 Pages
Published: September 2007

Price: Free Download
File Size: 268 KB

Widespread Islamist gains — from Hamas”s ascension in Gaza to the Muslim Brotherhood”s successes in Egypt — seem to have muted the previously high-profile agenda of bringing democracy to Arab countries. In both Washington and the region itself, little confidence remains in the short-term viability of democratic reform in an environment where well-organized Islamist forces are prepared to exploit it. Lost amid these imposing gains, however, is the paramount reason for democracy”s retreat: the varying responses of Arab regimes themselves. How have these regimes managed to use the various tools at their disposal — including the co-optation of Islamist gains — to effectively neutralize the democratic challenge? And what implications do their efforts hold for the future of Arab governance?

In this Washington Institute Policy Focus, Barry Rubin surveys the Arab government response to democratization efforts, whether homegrown or encouraged by the West. Using a broad array of examples from throughout the region, he examines both regime measures — ranging from subtle social initiatives to outright repression — and liberal and Islamist countermeasures. He also discusses how some regimes have responded positively to democratic pressures by attempting real reform. In all, he argues, these varying reactions will have a profound effect on the regimes” long-term stability — and on those forces competing to reform or replace them.

About The Author

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center at the Interdisciplinary University Herzliya and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA). He completed this study during his time as a 2007 visiting fellow at The Washington Institute; he also served as a senior research fellow at the Institute during the 1990s. His past publications include The Truth about Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2007), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (John Wiley, 2005), and The Tragedy of the Middle East (Cambridge University Press, 2002).

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