The political landscape is a dynamic field, constantly shifting and changing due to global and local events. Governments and regimes are susceptible to political variability and can be greatly affected by a number of factors such as economic stability and Internationals pressures. A significant question comparatists ask is whether regime shifts from an authoritarian government always result in a democracy. Levitsky and Way’s article on Competitive Authoritarianism state that, in some way or another, regime transitions result in some form of increased democracy. This article fails to identify key components of recent revolutions such as religion and social media, and therefore incorrectly asses shifts in power.
Levitsky and Way assert that many nations begin to democratize either when conditions become so poor that leaders must reform or face revolution, or improved economic conditions result in a demand for greater democratization due to the population’s increased political activity. Once the authoritarian regime is removed, the nation begins to democratize. Both of these theories fail to fully explain the Arab Spring.
In most Middle Eastern countries that experienced a regime change during the Arab Spring, it was not due to economics. Regime’s constituents yearned for freedom and revolutionary ideas were disseminated far easier through the utilization of social media. Protestors tired of their government’s repressive practices rallied and toppled their respective regimes. The situation deteriorated rapidly in the post-authoritarian power vacuum.
Revolting political entities began clashing over whether new regimes should be secular or religious. The Muslim brotherhood gained power through democratic elections in Egypt, then began enacting suppressive practices against secular political opposition to maintain power, similar to that of the previous authoritarian regime. The military then executed a coup that has left the nation in a tense stasis. The emergence of ISIS in Syria has caused significant religious tension within the region as well, and threatened the stability of neighboring countries such as Turkey and Iraq.
Both the implementation of social media and the introduction of religious agendas to revolutionary ideals are factors that Levitsky and Way had not accounted for in their original analysis of transitions. For many people in the Middle East, the Arab Spring has resulted in more chaos and economic turmoil than bargained for.
Hubbard, Ben and Rick Gladstone. “Arab Spring Countries Find Peace is harder than Revolution.” The New York Times, August 14, 2013.
Levitsky, Steven and Lucan Way. 2010. Competitive Authoritarianism: Hybrid Regimes After the Cold War. New York: Cambridge University Press. Chapter 1.
Simpson, John. “Who are the Winners and Losers from the Arab Spring?” BBC, November 12, 2014.