Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Can Arabic countries embrace democracy?

The unrest in the Arab world is growing. It seems like almost every country from Morocco to Oman has seen some form of protests against their repressive governments.
Click on the above map to read the latest about what is happening in each Middle Eastern country today.

Governments are falling, Tunisia and Egypt lost their presidents, Libya is almost completely controlled by rebels, Bin Laden's former mentor is urging an Islamic state in Yemen, protests are growing in Oman and Bahrain, Iran's people are massing again and even the Saudi Arabian elite are calling for a reduction in corruption.

Where will this all lead? The last time this region was convulsed this bad was the end of World War One and the splitting of the region between the British and French. What resulted was Arab nationalism and struggling over a series of artificially drawn countries. Clan loyalties won over religious and language barriers. Coups brought some to power, assasinations brought others in.

The world has changed a lot since then so we need to look to other, more recent upheavals to help predict what will happen next. The Iranian revolution showed us what happens when a popular uprising is allowed to be co-opted by religious fanatics.

Even more recently, the collapse of the Soviet Union showed what happens to different groups of people when a central dictator is removed from power. Almost immediately, the Warsaw Pact countries, Ukraine and the Baltic countries became free democracies, embracing the West, open trade and the rule of law. The next line in, closer to the heart of the Soviet Union became partially free, holding disputed elections and maintaining control over their economies. But, with the notable exception of Kyrgyzstan, the Central Asian Muslim countries became ruthless dictatorships. And even Kyrgyzstan is only considered 'partly free'.

What is likely to happen in the Middle East? Let's see.

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