Middle East

Aug 17, 2012

Taking stock of the Arab Spring: the ‘light on the hill’ is fading

Rodger Shanahan, a non-resident fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy, steps back from the daily news cycle and takes stock of the Arab Spring, 18 months in. He finds the movement has become more confused and less about democracy.

The Arab Spring continues to roll out half a world away via our TV screens each night. Rodger Shanahan steps back from the daily coverage and takes stock of the historic movement, 18 months to the day after it began when Tunisian protester Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire. Shanahan assesses what the democratic harvest has been, compares eight key countries, and looks at how the movement has morphed over time … 

The initial enthusiasm for the Arab Spring has waned, as the early momentum for political change has given way to the hard slog of democracy building in those countries where regimes have fallen, and ongoing conflict where they have not. But even at this juncture one thing is clear — the Arab Spring is becoming less about the fulfilment of a popular desire for democratisation supported by other democracies, and more a confusing mix of non-democratic motivations: the preservation of monarchical rule in the Gulf, the reassertion of Sunni primacy in Syria, and the concomitant proxy battle with Iran to limit its influence in the region.

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