LEADING NEWS SOURCE FOR TURKEY AND THE REGION

OPINION contributor

The Arab Spring: The 5.0 Democracy Wave

HDN | 8/19/2011 12:00:00 AM | Kenan Engin

I refer to the concept of democracy waves as set out by U.S. historian Samuel P. Huntington, in which he identifies three waves and the German scholar Klaus von Beyme (1996) added to these the fourth wave of democracy: the events after the collapse of the Soviet Union leading to democratic transitions of varying success in Eastern Europe.

On April 27, 2011 I wrote an article entitled “Die fünfte Welle der Demokratisierung im islamisch-arabischen Raum (German)?“ In this article I identified the new uprising in Arab-Islamic countries as the fifth wave of democracy because of evident features qualitatively similar to the third wave of democracy in Latin America in the ‘70s.

I refer to the concept of democracy waves as set out by U.S. historian Samuel P. Huntington, in which he identifies three waves and the German scholar Klaus von Beyme (1996) added to these the fourth wave of democracy: the events after the collapse of the Soviet Union leading to democratic transitions of varying success in Eastern Europe.

In my article, I analyzed the main structural deficits of the Arab-Islamic states, in order to clarify why the majority of these countries remain autocratic. In that article I highlighted three reasons for the lack of progress toward democracy in Arab-Islamic countries: first, the personification of those systems; second, the strong influence on legislation; and third, importance of tribal relations in governmental institutions.

Therefore, at the beginning of the Arab Spring, I became very curious to see whether this widespread uprising also will show features characteristic of a new democracy wave, one which finally can move the Arab-Islamic region toward to democracy and constitute the fifth wave of democracy. Some scholars, for example Larry Diamond, stated in his article in Foreign Affairs in May 2011, “A Fourth Wave or False Start?”, that there are indeed some indications of a democracy wave, but he avoided a definitive comment on these developments. Stephen R. Grand of the Brookings Institute also conveyed his doubts: “It’s unlikely that the autocracies of the Arab world will all topple quickly like dominoes as we saw in Eastern Europe”.

Surprisingly, in only a few months, we have seen striking developments from Tunisia to Yemen; one dictatorship after another collapsed or had been weakened to the point of major pro-democratic concessions being offered, in an effort to forestall regime change. These changes certainly seem to resemble the third wave of democracy in Latin America, when in Bolivia, Peru, Uruguay, Honduras and Ecuador all military or one-party regimes collapsed and were replaced by constitutional powers.

The snowballing effects of the breakdown or weakening of the dictatorships from Tunisia to Yemen have turned the power pyramid upside down. It is also significant to observe that most of the protesters have not demanded an Islamic state, or stronger pan-Arabic policies. Rather, they demand more democracy and political participation. In this widespread uprising we see a new political paradigm, in which the emphasis is on the dignity of the individual and not so much on traditional concepts of honor in the religious Islamic context.

The habitual fear of these regimes has been shattered in this region once and for all. No one-party system, no one-man dictatorship or absolute monarchy will be able any longer to shape the political landscape of the region, for the foreseeable future. Thus, I believe the process of change in the Arab-Islamic region will continue, with ups and downs, but it can no longer be reversed.

 Therefore, I believe it is not an exaggeration to call the Arab Spring the fifth wave of democracy, begun in 2011 and still ongoing.

MOST POPULAR

MOST COMMENTED

AcerPro S.I.P.A HTML & CSS Agency