Building Democracy on the Ashes of Authoritarianism in the Arab World: Workshop Summary
RAND NATIONAL DEFENSE RESEARCH INST SANTA MONICA CA
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After popular uprisings toppled authoritarian leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya in 2011 and precipitated a negotiated power transfer in Yemen in early 2012, it quickly became commonplace to observe that ousting a disliked regime was easier than replacing it with something better. The challenges that come after regime change building new, more open political systems and responding to popular expectations of improved living conditions have come to the fore. Political and social upheavals have been on full display as politicians, activists, and publics at large have struggled to define new rules for wielding government power and new relationships between states and societies. In some instances, the need to reform deeply entrenched institutional ways and means has become apparent, and in others, the need to create entirely new state institutions has become evident. And the upheavals have exacerbated economic problems that already existed. That these processes of political, economic, and social change have been slow and arduous is unsurprising given the similarly difficult experiences of many other countries around the world as they emerged from long periods of authoritarian rule. Nevertheless, the reality that such changes come neither quickly nor easily has frustrated many leaders and citizens of the countries affected. Indeed, the dramatic and participatory nature of the Arab Spring uprisings seems to have made the gap between popular expectations of change and actual results particularly pronounced, especially in comparison to some of the more protracted top-down or negotiated transitions in other parts of the world.
- Government and Political Science