GIGA Focus International Edition English

The Arab Spring: Triggers, Dynamics and Prospects

Number 1 | 2012 | ISSN: 1862-3581


  • On 17 December 2010, the self-immolation of Tunisian vegetable vendor Mohammed Bouazizi sparked the Arab Spring. Within a few months, a wave of protest had swept away the despots of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Since then protests have been keeping the region, which has until recently been viewed as having stable authoritarian regimes and as being largely resistant to democratization, on edge.

    Analysis

    Since the outbreak of the Arab Spring, parliamentary elections and constitutional debates have been taking place in North Africa and the Middle East and the public discourse has been defined by open criticism of the remaining autocracies. How fundamental and sustainable these changes will prove to be cannot yet be judged with certainty. However, some striking commonalities can be noted.

    • The initial spontaneity and lightness with which the opposition movements called the regimes into question stunned not only Western observers but also the Arab rulers themselves. After the initial surprise, the remaining autocracies returned – with only limited success to date – to their former methods of stabilizing their rule.

    • The triggers, progression and intensity of the protests have varied from country to country. The reactions of the regimes have also ranged from cautious concessions to violent repression.

    • Most Arab regimes suffer from massive legitimacy deficits, and the citizens are demanding to finally be able to participate more fairly in political, economic and societal events. Their protests exhibit similar symbols and reciprocal references. These parallels make the Arab Spring a momentous and novel event that will have a lasting impact on the region.

    • Numerous Arab countries have seen a strengthening of moderate Islamist parties, which many people now view as competent and reliable alternatives to the existing regimes.


    Footnotes



      Research Programmes


      Dr. Stephan Rosiny

      Dr. Stephan Rosiny

      Formerly Research Fellow




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      The German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA) – Leibniz-Institut für Globale und Regionale Studien in Hamburg publishes the Focus series on Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and global issues. The GIGA Focus is edited and published by the GIGA. The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the institute. Authors alone are responsible for the content of their articles. GIGA and the authors cannot be held liable for any errors and omissions, or for any consequences arising from the use of the information provided.

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      In the various editions of the GIGA Focus, the GIGA publishes its research findings and concise analyses of current events. Four editions cover politics, economics, and society in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, respectively. A transregional edition examines global trends.

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