Despite all those exciting explanations and images, I am not hopeful – in the medium term – about the prognosis for the Arab Spring. I have four fundamental reasons for this: first, there is the lack of a road map with democracy that would end poverty and solve the problem of the scarcity of economic resources, one of the most important root causes of the revolution; second, democracy-building is an inherently long-term and formidable venture; third, the emergence of a newly competitive environment would lead to the rapid replacement of fallen central authorities with ethnic, religious, sectarian and tribal authorities; and finally, there is a lack of global leaders.
Everybody agrees that poverty and corruption lie beneath the political disruption in the region. Another reality is the lack of resources that would enable an exit from this vicious circle. The global financial crisis has a determining role in this situation. On the other hand, the cumulative effects of the chronic political chaos and instability reign, negatively affecting the existing, constrained resources of these nations.
It is also true that already-limited local capital leaves countries in environments defined by a fear of an uncertain future, political instability and serious security concerns. It is not only money that leaves the country. Qualified manpower, too, will depart the region rapidly or exist under stressful conditions. Deteriorating economic situation means deepening political instability and despair.
The second factor triggering my pessimism arises from the character of the desired democracy. The process of democracy-building means chaos for masses that lack self-discipline. These developments will unavoidably draw all segments of society into long-running and empty political debates, accompanied by demonstrations, objections and occasional clashes. All these won’t solve problems like corruption, nepotism, education, welfare and bread which are the fundamental demands of the majority of those in society in the short and medium term. This will thus produce a chronic cycle of instability.
It is true that the so-called “Arab Spring” has demolished the authoritarian regimes in the region. The expectation that the character of the new regimes will be democratic, however, is little more than a dream. Ethnic, religious, sectarian and tribal power centers will quickly fill any gap that has appeared in the wake of the former regimes.
There will never be room for individuals in this picture. If democracy means legitimatizing the ballot box and capturing sovereignty from these states, then the Arab Spring will not lead to democracy, but alternative political systems in which local authorities become essential players. In that new order, none of individuals, equality between men and women or a concern about the rule of universal law, transparency and accountability will have a place. The big leaders of the past will be replaced by small kingdoms acting in deference to unique cultural norms.
In such a process where there is a scarcity of leaders, focusing on “stability-building” instead of “democracy-building” will not be a surprise, because unstable political systems never create an order that will produce sufficient bread.