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POPULAR UPRISINGS AND ARAB DEMOCRATIZATION

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 June 2001

Abstract

This paper proposes that domestic political conflict presents opportunities for positive change with long-term effects despite the “inherent plausibility” of its harmfulness. This position is tested using examples of Arab bread riots in the context of the wave of Arab democratizations over the past twenty years. Although generally guided and controlled, Arab political liberalizations (especially those of Sudan, Algeria, and Jordan) have their roots in pressure from below. Elsewhere (as in Tunisia and Egypt), similar pressure has helped consolidate—or, at least, place—political reform on the agenda of de-legitimized ruling elites. Democracy and democratization in the Arab Middle East have almost invariably meant a trend toward “parliamentarization” and “electoralization,” without yet presaging polyarchal rule. Between 1985 and 1996, the Arab world has experienced more than twenty pluralist or multiparty parliamentary elections, twice the number that took place in the entire preceding period since the early 1960s, when many Arab countries won independence from colonial rule. A focus on the khubz-iste (the quietist bread seeker who abandons quietism as soon as his livelihood is threatened by the state) and the hitiste (the quietist unemployed who becomes active in bread protests) provides a new perspective on democratization processes in Arab societies.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2000 Cambridge University Press

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