Muftah.org and Democracy & Society Present
A Special Issue – After the Revolution: Looking Forward
Volume 9, Issue 2
We are seeking well-written, interesting submissions of 1500-2000 words on the theme below, including summaries and/or excerpts of recently completed research, new publications, and works in progress. This Special Issue will be co-edited by Muftah.org, a digital foreign policy magazine on the Middle East and North Africa, and Democracy & Society, a publication of the Center for Democracy and Civil Society at Georgetown University. Submissions are due Monday, March 5th, 2012.
The wave of uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa in 2011 set a precedent for political and social change. Starting with Tunisia, people began to publicly call into question the leadership of governments and individuals that hitherto they feared challenging or accepted as their political fate. However, shortly after the Arab Spring, the stark realities of political transitions have become clear. Some regimes, such as in Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria, sought to use force to crush nascent uprisings. Even in the successful revolutions, most notably Egypt and Tunisia, securing political leadership that acts in the interests of the people remains a challenge. More broadly, we are witnessing revolutions still in progress, where the prospects for successful democratic transitions seem uncertain. What challenges exist to these nascent democratic movements? A number of questions emerge, including:
- Opportunities and Dangers: Political transitions present groups with opportunities to influence the direction or nature of those changes. Notably, in the context of the Middle East and North Africa, revolutions may present Islamic parties with an opening to advance their ideologies and gain support. On one hand, this may lead to a more peaceful redefinition of groups that were repressed by previous regimes. But on the other hand, the political vacuum revolutions create may encourage the rise of more extreme ideological parties.
- State and Society: The revolutions and uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa have called into question the fundamental basis upon which the state relates to society. To what extent have these political transformations altered peoples’ expectations about government accountability and notions of popular sovereignty?
- The Role of the External Actors: To what extent might political change in the Middle East and North Africa undermine the capacity of external actors, such as the United States and Iran, to cultivate politically compliant regimes? Can democratic countries that were supporters of overthrown dictators, like the United States and France, play a constructive role in helping to foster democratic transitions? Will these democratic movements seek to limit the influence of external actors in order to assert sovereignty? How will these changes affect the foreign policies of countries that view the region as a strategic interest?
- The Role of the Media and Technology: There exist many untested hypotheses about the role of the media, notably Al Jazeera and technology like the Internet, affected the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. Can we state with any degree of specificity the role these media played in them?
- The Challenges of Governance: Democratic transitions often place political groups previously in opposition to the regime with the challenges of actually having to govern. What are some of the problems they may face in transitioning from a repressed opposition to becoming the government?
- Slow Pace of Change: Many lament the slow pace of political change in the region since the uprisings began one year ago. Is this pessimism justified? Should we expect political transitions in much of the region to be swift or lengthy processes that are prone to backsliding?
- Resistance from Regimes in Power: In the case of Bahrain, Syria and Yemen the regimes in power resorted to harsh tactics to crush dissent, whereas in Egypt and Tunisia, leaders stepped down without much of a fight. How can we account for these differences?
These are just a few of the questions that arise as the challenges of the Arab Spring become more prominent. This issue will take a broad, analytical perspective on determining what these issues are. We seek to understand it from a global, regional, and country-specific perspective. Please email submissions to [email protected] & [email protected] by March 5th, 2012. For additional information, please visit www.democracyandsociety.com and http://muftah.org or contact Andrea Murta or Ayesha Chugh at [email protected]