The Possibility of Democracy in Fragmented Arab Societies

Two years ago, unified opposition against the Middle East’s authoritarian regimes characterized the Arab uprisings. All the slogans shared the underlying mantra, “We want change”—change of the regime, change of the economic status quo, change of the political oppression, and change of the fearful silence.

Two years later, however, unified opposition has transformed into internal fragmentation and polarization in each country, whether they have entered a period of transition—like Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya—or not. Syria’s uprisings have spiraled into civil war. Meanwhile, in Jordan and Morocco, tensions fester below the surface as some citizens are increasingly displeased with the cosmetic changes that their respective governments implemented to quell the 2011 protests. Egypt’s transition remains in the international eye while Tunisia, where the uprisings of the Arab world began in January 2011, has faded almost wholly from global public discourse. Despite their differing face time in the media, the Egyptian and Tunisian transitions are plagued with similar sectarian polarization that, for many Westerners, seemingly denote the failure of the so-called “Arab Spring” in instituting democracy throughout the Middle East. Yet, elections, constitution writing, and continued societal debate in Egypt and Tunisia underscore an evolving reality that was virtually impossible under Mubarak and Ben Ali. However, the internal sectarian polarization in both countries threatens their respective transitions to democracy insofar as it divides the nations that, only as unified fronts, were successful in overthrowing repressive dictators.

The sectarian divide has manifested differently in the last two years, being more apparent in Egypt than in Tunisia. Moderate, liberal, and secular Egyptians criticized the Muslim Brotherhood for its reluctance to join the 2011 uprisings, its alleged politicking with the widely unpopular Security Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), and its push to hold the country’s first post-Mubarak elections before rewriting its constitution. Meanwhile, Tunisians—whose country, before the uprisings of 2011, was considered one of the more liberal in the region—were hesitant to accept Ennahda’s rising leadership. Both Egyptians and Tunisians questioned the parties’ self-proclaimed modernized form of political Islam. Through passive political participation and social programs, however, the Muslim Brotherhood and Ennahda garnered the necessary support to win elections, successfully attaining control of their respective governments.

In an attempt to maintain their newly acquired power, especially after being politically oppressed for decades, both the Muslim Brotherhood and Ennahda have confirmed—and, to some extent, exacerbated—worries that premature elections would lead to another oppressive, overreaching government. The Muslim Brotherhood has demonstrated worrisome tendencies resembling those of SCAF and Mubarak. Most notable, President Morsi assumed SCAF’s unlimited, controversial authority in June 2012 and then, late last November, decreed essentially absolute power for the president. Although he rescinded the latter decree, Morsi has thus far failed to take moderate, liberal, and secular voices into account, particularly in regards to the constitution. Similarly, the Ennahda-controlled government and constitution-writing body have exhibited more conservative tendencies than those with which they campaigned during elections. The National Constituent Assembly, which was elected in 2011 to write the constitution, failed to include safeguards protecting fundamental freedoms (namely those of expression and conscience), women’s rights, and anti-discrimination. Instead, the constitution depended more heavily on shari’a than initially expected.

The Islamist framework of both parties has added a sectarian element to the national divisions, which are inherent in times of political change and transformation. Like Mubarak’s National Democratic Party and Ben Ali’s Rally for Constitutional Democracy, the Muslim Brotherhood and Ennahda have become the dominant parties struggling to maintain power while vying against moderate, liberal, and secular opponents for political legitimacy. Therefore, neither Islamist government has made substantial strides to rectify the failing economies, address the unemployment rates, or alleviate their respective country’s poverty—all of which were among the factors that fueled the 2011 Arab uprisings. These shortcomings have rendered a perceived failure of the “Arab Spring,” with Islamist and secular parties pointing the finger at each other.

The immediate secular polarization, however, does not hamper the possibility of long-term democracy in Egypt or Tunisia. In the short-term, any form of fragmentation—sectarian, political, economic, or social in nature—will surely prolong the transition from authoritarianism to democracy. The 2011 Arab uprisings created a new space for public debate and discourse in Egypt and Tunisia, thus enabling the rise of various opinions. The very existence of this outright, apparent fragmentation signifies a shift from the Mubarak and Ben Ali regimes, under which critics of the government were jailed, tortured, and/or killed—as is still occurring in Syria, Jordan, and Bahrain. In other words, this evident societal polarization highlights an increased public discourse once impossible in the Middle East. Rather, the true danger to democracy rests in the long-term continuation of such divisions, which will occur unless Islamists and secularists alike begin to work towards the changes once called for two years ago.


Anna Maria Shaker is our Middle Eastern Affairs Editor and a Middle Eastern Studies major, FCRH 2013. She may be contacted at

1,135 thoughts on “The Possibility of Democracy in Fragmented Arab Societies”

  1. Pingback:
  2. Pingback: arava 20mg cheap
  3. Pingback: shop pharmacie
  4. Pingback: cialis 20mg
  5. Pingback: abilify 10mg otc
  6. Pingback: viagra
  7. Pingback: order Cialis 20 mg
  8. Pingback: generic cialis
  9. Pingback: Viagra 200mg otc
  10. Pingback: online viagra
  11. Pingback: Viagra 25mg tablet
  12. Pingback: cheap Viagra 150mg
  13. Pingback: buy sildenafil
  14. Pingback: Adidas yeezy
  15. Pingback: Yeezy 350
  16. Pingback: UGGS Outlet
  17. Pingback: UGG
  18. Pingback: Yeezys
  19. Pingback: Yeezy
  20. Pingback: UGG Outlet
  21. Pingback: Jordan 1s
  22. Pingback: tadalafil
  23. Pingback: viagra tablets
  24. Pingback: generic viagra
  25. Pingback: viagra samples
  26. Pingback: tadalafil cialis
  27. Pingback: order viagra
  28. Pingback: when to buy viagra
  29. Pingback: cbd products
  30. Pingback: taxis brighton
  31. Pingback: family taxi
  32. Pingback: slots online
  33. Pingback: c3q4r43rq3r4qr34e
  34. Pingback: buy cialis
  35. Pingback: propecia online
  36. Pingback: buy viagra online
  37. Pingback: guillermo
  38. Pingback: casino slots
  39. Pingback: cialis to buy
  40. Pingback: viagra for sale
  41. Pingback: generic cialis
  42. Pingback: payday loans
  43. Pingback: blazere kvinder
  44. Pingback: viagra
  45. Pingback: mima silver
  46. Pingback: gorro de satin
  47. Pingback: viagra pill
  48. Pingback: spodnie popielate
  49. Pingback: cheap cialis
  50. Pingback: cover up shirts
  51. Pingback: ipad netonnet
  52. Pingback: neymar jr jordan
  53. Pingback: andis 2 speed
  54. Pingback: generic cialis
  55. Pingback: m盲nnliche schuhe
  56. Pingback: hugo boss enfants
  57. Pingback: luna e235 black
  58. Pingback: partes del sujeto
  59. Pingback: canap茅 4 places
  60. Pingback: levitra pills
  61. Pingback: akrylov媒 sprej
  62. Pingback: Real cialis online
  63. Pingback: t shirt pelle
  64. Pingback: superdry karstadt
  65. Pingback: bugatti vetement
  66. Pingback: doudou chiot
  67. Pingback: novit脿 swarovski
  68. Pingback: Buy cialis online
  69. Pingback: eram escarpin noir
  70. Pingback: zeleny svetr
  71. Pingback: guanti uomo lana
  72. Pingback: bluza do treningu
  73. Pingback: online pharmacy
  74. Pingback: rx pharmacy
  75. Pingback: gilet rose enfant
  76. Pingback: viagra
  77. Pingback: abrigo pa帽o azul
  78. Pingback: ponyva takar贸
  79. Pingback: maletin de frozen
  80. Pingback: cialis for sale
  81. Pingback: retro 6 2019
  82. Pingback: ugradbene perilice
  83. Pingback: lebron lakers tee
  84. Pingback: towcar t3 precio
  85. Pingback: guess bag green
  86. Pingback: registrace
  87. Pingback: ed meds
  88. Pingback: sildenafil
  89. Pingback: gruba bluza damska
  90. Pingback: party la gavia
  91. Pingback: terno bom e barato
  92. Pingback: buy generic cialis
  93. Pingback: herkkujen herkku
  94. Pingback: speles games
  95. Pingback: borse 2016 2017
  96. Pingback: drammeglass i tre
  97. Pingback: pierwsze okulary
  98. Pingback: comprar ropa
  99. Pingback: chiruca ni帽o
  100. Pingback: 拧kolsk茅 mlieko
  101. Pingback: retro fives
  102. Pingback: bas adidas noir
  103. Pingback: cascola extra 14kg
  104. Pingback: lovas铆j谩sz dvd
  105. Pingback: tk maxx koce
  106. Pingback: flats wireless jvc
  107. Pingback: viagra otc
  108. Pingback: short jean ado
  109. Pingback: simbolo di nascita
  110. Pingback: mascarillas foreo
  111. Pingback: pousseur bubble go
  112. Pingback: hladilnik gorenje
  113. Pingback: lustry do pokoje
  114. Pingback: rucksack segeltuch
  115. Pingback: armani tenisice
  116. Pingback: flyknit 270 womens
  117. Pingback: kjoler 50 tallet
  118. Pingback: dressing up tables
  119. Pingback: sommer parka damen
  120. Pingback: cordon marron
  121. Pingback: r vestes en jean
  122. Pingback: tury krkonose
  123. Pingback: boty k 拧at暖m
  124. Pingback: new adidas takkies
  125. Pingback: obag cerna
  126. Pingback: boxfresh milford
  127. Pingback: 2020 royal bb4500
  128. Pingback: tacones azules
  129. Pingback: dorada slacks
  130. Pingback: jumpsuit cotone
  131. Pingback: nike jordan sconti
  132. Pingback: air 720 mujer
  133. Pingback: ua biofit 2 glove
  134. Pingback: piumone trapuntato
  135. Pingback: leopard strik jurk
  136. Pingback: 9317 adidas
  137. Pingback: nike odyssey dame
  138. Pingback: umiar kolczyki
  139. Pingback: entreprise visa
  140. Pingback: vw key badge
  141. Pingback: achat bague argent
  142. Pingback: utem酶bler daybed
  143. Pingback: laptop bag trolley
  144. Pingback: sacou barbati crem
  145. Pingback: jupon long femme
  146. Pingback: iphone 7 pink
  147. Pingback: h酶rskjorte herre
  148. Pingback: kd shoe amazon
  149. Pingback: Yeezys
  150. Pingback: Jordan 11 Concord
  151. Pingback: React Element 87
  152. Pingback: NFL Jerseys
  153. Pingback: Yeezy
  154. Pingback: Yeezy 350
  155. Pingback: Yeezy
  156. Pingback: Pandora Jewelry
  157. Pingback: Yeezy Boost 700
  158. Pingback: Nike Outlet store
  159. Pingback: Nike Outlet Online
  160. Pingback: Yeezy
  161. Pingback: Yeezy Boost 350 V2
  162. Pingback: Nike Outlet
  163. Pingback: Yeezys
  164. Pingback: Air Max 270
  165. Pingback: Balenciaga
  166. Pingback: Nike Pegasus 35
  167. Pingback: Adidas Yeezys
  168. Pingback: Nike Air Max 270

Leave a Reply