The Arab Transitions in a Changing World

Page 1


Senén Florensa. Executive President of the IEMed

1. This volume is the result of the work started with the international conference “Arab Transitions in Comparative Perspective: Building Democracies in the Light of International Experiences”, which was first jointly organised by the IEMed and the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies in Barcelona in November 2014. The articles prepared for this publication represent each author’s views, but in this introduction I have tried to present, along with my own appreciations, a sense of the overall shared reflections and the discussions at the conference, including the topics and areas not presented with a written article in this volume.



The outbreak of the Arab uprisings in 2010 led

In addition, it must be emphasised that even the front-

most of us to think that we were witnessing the

runner countries are facing considerable challenges,

fourth or the late third wave of democratisation in

which could gravely threaten their political transitions.

the contemporary international experience. In fact,

The terrorist attacks in Tunisia and the increasing

only Tunisia and Morocco have engaged in a com-

number of Moroccan Jihadist fighters returning to

prehensive reform agenda, which would eventually

their country pose a serious threat to the internal

lead those countries towards democratic transfor-

security of both states. Moreover, Tunisia and to a

mation. Egypt, under the presidency of al-Sisi, has

certain extent also Morocco are confronting serious

returned to authoritarian rule, repressing not only

socioeconomic problems, such as high unemploy-

terrorists but also opposition forces. In Libya, the

ment among youths, weakening revenues from the

recently announced agreement between some war-

tourism sector and, consequently, decreasing living

ring factions gives a faint hope of stabilisation but

standards. These hardships may lead to the outbreak

the peace can only be achieved once all the parties

of new waves of social protest and radicalisation of

of conflict engage in talks. Meanwhile, the confronta-

some of the most underprivileged strata of society. In

tion continues with the serious threat of the creation

addition to internal challenges, external factors, such

of a terrorist DAESH-controlled area, which will in its

as some international and regional actors’ interest in

turn seriously endanger the security and stability of

maintaining the status quo, impede some states in the

neighbouring Tunisia, while in Syria, in its fifth year of

region from undertaking significant political reforms.

conflict, there are currently no clear prospects for a

Furthermore, the refugees fleeing the war in Syria

peaceful solution. The developments in this country

and Iraq are confronting Europe with a humanitarian

also pose a serious threat to its neighbours, Jordan

problem in the most dramatic way.

and Lebanon, who are facing a constantly growing

All these developments clearly contradict the transi-

number of refugees, endangering not only the secu-

tion paradigm, whose major assumption is that the

rity but also the economic and social equilibria of both

political opening leads to elections, followed by a

states. The appearance and astonishing results of the

period of consolidation, during which the institu-

devastating methods of DAESH has added a great deal of suffering and complication to the complex

tions are democratised and civil society strengthened.2 Considering the obstacles the Middle East

constellation of conflicts.

and North Africa countries are facing, it is difficult

2. Carothers, T. (2002). The End of the Transition Paradigm. Journal of Democracy, 13:1. Retrieved from articles/gratis/Carothers-13-1.pdf



to foresee when and whether they will turn into

Morocco, on the other hand, represented a specific

democratic states.

case of government-led transition, given the partici-

Against this backdrop, the comparative analysis with

pation of royalty in the political process.

the countries that have successfully undergone dem-

As stated in the most remarkable contribution to this

ocratic transformations in the contemporary interna-

volume by Charles Powell, a constitutional drafting

tional experience might provide an invaluable insight

process can follow three main leads: the assembly

into the most important processes accompanying

can restore a previous constitution, improve the

democratic transitions, such as making new consti-

existing one or start from scratch. The Spanish case

tutions, electoral processes and political institutional

followed the third pattern. The end of the dictator-

changes, transitional justice, socioeconomic policies,

ship in Spain was encouraged by a change in the

political rivalries or politics of identity, as well as the

social and international circumstances. The coun-

role of external actors in shaping political develop-

try’s accelerating industrialisation of the 1960s led

ments. It may also help to identify and understand the

to a more solid economic environment and to a pro-

conditions and factors that enable the regime change

gressive growth of the middle class. The 1973 crisis

and successful democratisation. Accordingly, the main aim of the conference on “Arab

channelled massive social unrest and thus led to

Transitions in Comparative Perspective” was to exam-

tion, a negotiation between the main political players

ine the past experiences of transitions in order to

to achieve a new executive arrangement. The 1978

shed some light on the numerous complex issues

Spanish Constitution was drafted by parliamen-

that may arise during the transformation period in

tary members of all the main parties in a protracted

the Southern Mediterranean. The most recognised

but inclusive process. After extensive debate, the

experts on transition and on the Southern Mediterra-

monarchy was accepted and institutionalised in the

nean region analysed case studies taken from Spain,

wake of other western state models. The territorial

Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, South

cleavage was solved by the assertion of national

Africa and Indonesia in order to provide valuable

unity alongside the right to self-government and the

lessons for the transforming projects in the region.

recognition of the multinational character of Span-


what has been described as a transition via transac-

ish society, thereby heading to a formal ambiguity THE MAKING OF NEW CONSTITUTIONS:

(Spain as a nation including different nationalities).


Parallel to the assurance of civil supremacy over

The constitutional drafting processes and their

military power, the separation of church and state

related negotiating process is obviously one of the

was granted, even though the church maintained a

first factors of success or defeat. Case studies taken

prominent role in some fields, such as education.

both from European history and the Arab region

Yet from an institutional point of view, the desire to

in recent times require a careful and comparative

avoid past errors, according to Charles Powell, led

analysis, especially in regard to the role of religion

the constituent assembly to overcompensate for a

in political transitions. Egypt’s and Tunisia’s constitu-

possible tendency towards multipartitism by estab-

tional procedures deserve special attention for their

lishing an excessively rigid constitution that resulted

diverse accomplishments and, in particular, given the

in a majoritarian system, with a strong executive and

role of various agents in their political realignment.

an overall weak parliament.

3. See as a canonical presentation Linz, J. & Stepan, A. (1996). Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation. Southern Europe, South America and Post-Communist Europe. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.



In the case of North African countries, more or less

the constitution drafting process particular attention

democratic transitions followed the Arab revolutions.

was paid to social rights and women’s empower-

Nonetheless, their respective constitutional drafting

ment. The establishment of a general court was a

processes have been at the centre of the strug-

crucial step to protect the newly obtained demo-

gle for power among representatives of the main

cratic liberties and other constitutional provisions.

political stakeholders. In Morocco, the king took

Tunisia is a free sovereign state that has Islam as

the initiative of revising the existing constitution,

a religion and Arabic as a language, affirming free-

thus not letting his power be affected by internal

dom of religion and beliefs for all of its citizens. The

turmoil. Responding to parliamentary will, according

mobilisation of the civil society institutions (Human

to Idriss Lakrini’s contribution in this volume, the first

Rights League, Bar Association, the CGTT union’s

attempts to modernise the text focused on human

confederation and the UTICA employers’ associa-

rights and the reinforcement of the government and

tion) was absolutely crucial, winning them the Nobel

judiciary power, although the king still kept essential

Peace Prize.

powers on legislation and foreign policy. In 2011,

In Egypt, the first constitutional draft of 2011, which

the revisions accelerated with the urge to respond to

established that a constituent assembly would be

the demands of Moroccan society. The protests and

elected by parliament, was replaced by a new one

the 20th February Movement led to a horizontal con-

whose amendment was put forward by a committee

stitutional debate, where diverse social requirements

of 50 members elected by the interim president with

were discussed in a multiparty environment. Many

opaque standards. The text, in secrecy and approved

political stakeholders contributed to the reform of

without a referendum, enshrines extensive autonomy

the basic law, generating a conciliating constitution.

for military and judiciary powers. The first Egyptian

Still, the implementation of this constitution is being

constitution and the Tunisian one were innovative, in

discussed; as stated by Lakrini, there is a rising defi-

the sense that for the first time Islamic parties were

cit on accountability and guaranty issues that have to be further defined and amended.4 For example,

allowed and participated in the constitutional pro-

the right to strike or the recognition of the Amazigh

maintaining moderate behaviour. These processes

language are not yet clearly stated.

initially emerged from a wide national consensus,

Tunisia followed a very democratic transition process

but Tunisia’s successful constitutional process was

by electing a constitutional assembly and organising

the product of negotiation and of an inclusive exer-

democratic elections.5 The elections to the constitu-

cise, while Egypt went through social discontent-

tional assembly did not allow any party to have the

ment. Egypt’s ruling elite failed to build a political

majority. The constitution is the result of negotiation

agreement between the most significant contending

and compromise: the imposition of a parliamentary

parties and institutions, including the military, and pre-

regime warrants continuity in the future. The effect

ferred to protect its interests rather than build a solid

is a republican democratic participatory form of gov-

social contract. The final result was thus the return

ernment, with a mixed elective system that sets forth

to authoritarianism.

the supremacy of parliament. The legislative power

The role of religion in politics in the case of the Pol-

allows people to elect their representatives and the

ish transition after the fall of the Soviet regime is the

assembly has the power to dismiss the president. In

object of Patricja Sasnal’s interesting contribution to

cess, thus recognising the supremacy of the law and

4. See for Morocco the chapter of Idriss Lakrini and Larbi Jaidi in this volume. 5. Ounaïes, A. (2015). Building a Democratic State: The Case of Tunisia. IEMed Mediterranean Yearbook 2015. Barcelona: IEMed.



this volume. Religion occupied a particular place in

would lead to political openness, there are huge dis-

the state’s politics. The Polish Constitution was eight

parities between different Arab countries. In general,

years in the making, from 1989 to 1997, but it depicts

the energy-rich countries maintain (and pay for) the

the consensus between the church, the state and all

accumulated inefficiencies in their economic systems.

the parties involved. The Catholic Church helped the

With regard to social transition, it is influenced by

transition, guaranteeing an anti-communist presence

such factors as transformation in attitudes, values

at the roundtables, but it was also one of its bigger

and aspirations of the people, resulting from educa-

beneficiaries, as it regained its properties once taken

tion, increased contact with the outside world and

by the communists. Indeed, the role of the church

dissatisfaction with the existing political system. As

after 1989 has been a controversial and divisive

for the developments on the political transition level,

issue. Sermons still have a strong political hold in

they are currently shaped by three main drivers of

influencing how people vote, even if the evolution of

change, besides a given level of education, which is

the socioeconomic conditions and the demographic

capable of evolving only in the long run. The first one

rate headed towards a more secularised society.

is youth and their demands for better opportunities.

Religious societies such as Poland prove they can

The second one is the role of Arab women, whose

assume democratic governance, although the issue

position in society and family as well as economic

of secularisation cannot be evaluated by looking

role in the system bear an enormous transformative

at European models; a correspondence between

capacity. The last driver of change is now information

Christianity and Islam is questionable due to the fact

and communication technologies, which enable wider

that Islam is not an institutionalised religion. It may

access to the independent sources of information.

be argued that Islam is in some ways institutionalised

Despite those threefold transitions, the Arab world

by recognised religious authorities, as is the case

still faces some major challenges, such as the battle

of the ayatollahs in Iran and other spiritual guides.

for pluralism and the capacity to integrate different

What is clear in any event is that the Arab world’s

visions of the model of society. Therefore, democracy

religious diversity, especially in the Middle East, calls

should not be conceived only as a goal, but also as

for a secular state to ensure equal rights for every

a method to solve problems and respond to growing

religion. Certainly, religious minorities in Islam cannot be granted their full rights without a secularised

expectations.6 To analyse the elite choices of alliance-building and


its impact on the transitional path in particular, in the case of Libya and Egypt, the distinction has to be


made between two types of elites: the state elite, with


vested interests in the traditional political and social

Currently, three different transitions occur in the

order established by the old regime, and the dissident

region: political, social and economic. Although the

elite representatives that try to establish themselves in

speed of their progression is different, they are all

the new regime.7 Both elites are facing internal prob-

essential for the consolidation of democracy. As far

lems, such as maintaining the unity and coherence of

as the economic transition is concerned, despite

their factions, while trying to intensify the problems

previous assumptions that economic liberalisation

of their opponents, leading to change in alliances

6. Amirah Fernández, H. (2015). The Multiple Crises in the Middle East. Quaderns de la Mediterrània. Barcelona: IEMed. 7. See the contribution by Marwa Fikry Abdel Samei in this volume as well as Fedtke, J. (2014). Comparative Analysis between the Constitutional Processes in Egypt and Tunisia – Lessons Learnt – Overview of the Constitutional Situation in Libya. Brussels: European Parliament.



and tensions between civil society and state. Both

as a recipe for the transformations in the Southern

in Libya and Egypt, state and dissident elites tried to

Mediterranean region, it could shed some light on cur-

solve their own dilemmas and broaden their alliances,

rent developments. Firstly, that security sector reform

willing to establish their own social and political order.

(SSR) cannot be achieved without a general transition

Nevertheless, the dissolution of umbrella coalitions

process, which may seem like a vicious circle. The

shortly after the overthrow of regimes and the con-

existence of the monarchy in Spain enabled this prob-

tinuously changing alliances between elites undermined the democratic transition and led to political

lem to be avoided. As Narcís Serra has explained,8 the king’s support for reform was a crucial factor for

instability. Therefore, despite the different trajectories

the military’s compliance with and acceptance of the

of their revolutions, both countries failed to fulfil the

reform process. The SSR was implemented in the

promises of transitions and are currently facing the

cycle of two sub-periods of the Spanish transition

problems of social division and the polarisation of civil

to democracy. First, the transition period’s objective

society, which lead to either a return to the authoritar-

was to prevent the police and the armed forces from

ian regime or to a serious security deficit, with cata-

intervening in political decision-making in the country.

strophic results in the case of Libya.

Second, the consolidation period focused on ensuring

As for the development of electoral processes, it has

and strengthening the government’s role in taking

been observed that Tunisia lacks a historical tradi-

decisions regarding security and defence matters. In

tion of transparency in its elections. The elections

order to be successful, the security sector reform has

that took place in Tunisia shortly after the uprising

to be managed from inside, promoting some key mili-

were judged improper, as they lacked transparency

tary figures to cooperate with the task, and needs the

and integrity and their main aim was only to remove

broad support of civil society and parliament. In addi-

the settled power. On the other hand, the following

tion, as the reform of the security sector is complex

elections were assessed as exemplary and inclusive.

and long, there must be a consensus on its main lines.

They were composed of three phases. The first phase

SSR should be a coherent process, transforming not

consisted of establishment of electoral administra-

only the military but also the intelligence services, the

tion, registration of votes and provision of a final list

policy and the military justice. The reform should not

of candidates to the citizens. Secondly, the proper

only address laws and institutions but also transform

voting took place without violence or irregularities.

the professional profile, mentality and types of mission

The last phase of elections included the counting

of the military. The acceptance by the armed forces of

and processing of the results and the recognition

their role of defending the country and not to control it

and acceptance by the losing party of its failure. Over-

is, according to Narcís Serra, one of the main authors

all, the success of the electoral process does not

of the SSR in Spain as Minister of Defence and then

depend only on a legal process but also on the ena-

Vice-President of the Government, a sine qua non of

bling environment and electoral culture. At the same

stable and successful reform.

time, an election in itself does not always guarantee democracy and several other factors are necessary


to achieve a successful transition.


Finally, the change in civil-military relations may be best

One of the major and most sensitive issues in

exemplified with the case study of Spain. Although the

democratic transitions in post-conflict situations is

Spanish transition process should not be understood

accounting for past crimes and abuses. There are dif-

8. Serra, N. (2010). The Military Transition. Democratic Reform of the Armed Forces. Cambridge University Press.



ferent ways in which post-authoritarian governments

have been applied, such as reparation measures for

deal with transitional justice. To cite a few examples,

property recovery or disability benefits. Nevertheless,

the Spanish transition, compared with some Latin

it has been stated that the reconciliation process

America experiences, may represent a case of avoid-

in Bosnia and Herzegovina largely failed. The main

ing confrontation and accepting the past. Bosnia

obstacle to the peaceful transition is the term “rec-

and Herzegovina represented in its turn the case

onciliation” itself, implying that those who need to be

where striving for peace based on interethnic framing

reconciled are ethnic communities. Therefore, it was

may actually jeopardise reconciliation and success-

based on a very problematic framing of reconciliation

ful transition for a long period. The Libyan isolation

and so confronted nationalistic narratives. Thus, the

law and its influence on the current situation in the

Dayton Agreement, rather than being a big success,

country is a recent case of addressing transitional

provided for power sharing among ethnic groups and

justice. Finally, as we will see, the Kurdish transitions

created far from inclusive politics. In fact, political

represent an example of non-Arab transition in the

participation in Bosnia depends on ethnic identity.

Arab world.

The Dayton Agreement also undermined the process

In Spain, though, the traumatic memory of the Span-

of genuine justice and accountability, as the main

ish Civil War and the will to avoid its repetition at any

negotiators were the key figures of the old regimes.

price, as explained in the contribution by Paloma

Therefore, it was observed that successful transition

Aguilar and Clara Ramírez-Barat, led to the decision

in Bosnia and Herzegovina could finally be achieved

to leave the past behind. Instead of public reflection

only by abandoning the ethnic framing and establish-

about the responsibilities for the 1936-1939 con-

ing a bottom-up type of politics. In addition, as the

flict and the immediate post-war atrocities, the path

conflict was regional and transnational, the national

towards reconciliation was based on the oblivion of

framing of transitional justice measures should be

the war crimes issue and adoption of the Amnesty

abandoned. Instead, the path towards reconciliation

Law in 1977. A post-transitional justice phase began

should be based on regional inclusive consultations

much later in 2000 and culminated in 2007, with the

and recognition of past human rights violations.

passing of the Law of Historical Memory. Conse-

In Libya, the transitional justice process took place

quently, victims’ offices were created, some remaining

in unfavourable circumstances, as the nation and

Franco symbols removed, the access to the military,

state needed to be rebuilt. After the fall of the regime,

judicial and general administration archives regulated

in July 2012 the General National Congress was

and a map of common graves created. However,

elected. The outcome of the election led to the radi-

following the People’s Party (PP) electoral victory

cal reconfiguration of the Libyan political map for

in 2011, most of these measures have been either

the benefit of local forces and non-state actors. The

abandoned or cancelled.

newly-elected parliament, under the pressure of revo-

In the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, after the

lutionary militias, passed the political exclusion law,

signing of the Dayton Agreement in 1995 significant

aiming to exclude the officials from the Gaddafi era

transitional justice initiatives were established in the

from holding public office in the government, civil

region, the most important of which was the Interna-

service, police, the judiciary or banking for a period of

tional Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.9 In addition, a variety of transitional justice measures

10 years. The law, compared to the “debaasification law” in Iraq, led to the exclusion of large sections of

9. Rangelov, I. (2016, May 4). Dayton, 20 Years Later: Reconciliation in the Former Yugoslavia? Esglobal. See as well Rangelov, I. (2015). Nationalism and the Rule of Law. Lessons from the Balkans and Beyond. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.



Libyan society and even some of the political leaders,

and even Iran. The ISIS threat has also significantly

who had played a key role since the outbreak of the

strengthened the position of the PKK, with increas-

Libyan uprising in February 2011. Therefore, it has

ing support for its armed groups outside Turkey.

jeopardised the national reconciliation and institution-

Overall, the growing instability in the region has

alised historical divisions inside Libyan society, thus

revived the Kurdish desire for autonomy. Neverthe-

contributing to the current armed conflict and gradu-

less, despite some points of cooperation, political

ally transforming Libya into a failed state. In order to

rivalries among the Kurds will most probably remain

prevent the country from falling into total civil war, the

rather unchanged in the long term.

General National Congress should abolish the political isolation law and adopt a more inclusive policy of


national reconciliation. However, this process could


be threatened by foreign conservative forces, such


as Saudi Arabia or Egypt, which are interested in a

Socioeconomic inclusion in the Arab countries is

military security approach rather than the transitional

a necessary requirement to achieve a successful

political one. Moreover, contrary to the transitional jus-

political transition. Unquestionably, the aggravation

tice processes in Latin America and Eastern Europe,

of social inequalities in the region is one of the main

those in the Middle East and North Africa region lack

causes of popular mobilisations, which has become

consensus within society on the type of new political

an unconventional way of doing politics (“street

contract to be put in place.

politics”). The express social demands refer mainly

As for the Kurdish case, in Iraq, after the fall of

to basic needs, but they also reveal social classes’

Saddam Hussein, the constitutionally established

frustrations and territorial inequalities, reflecting the

federalism allowed for the creation of a Kurdish

unjust distribution of power and the lack of policy

regional government in the north. However, the Iraqi

measures to establish an inclusive economic growth

Kurdistan autonomy is causing tensions, due to

model. The Arab Spring has shaken the Southern

the exclusionary constitutional drafting process,

Mediterranean region, which previously experienced

which included Shia Islamists and Kurdish nation-

some positive macroeconomic results, especially in

alists, with symbolic Sunni participation. In Syria,

terms of economic growth but, at the same time, was

Kurds have been operating in the context of partial

marked by the abandonment of many categories of

transition, mainly in Kurdish majority areas, where

population, such as youth, women or rural inhabit-

the regime has largely lost control. The Kurdish

ants. It is therefore interesting to examine what can

struggle for autonomy has been conducted under

be done now, in the light of other experiences, such

two different models of Kurdish nationalism. The

as the Spanish and the South African ones, to face

first one, built around economic integration with

socioeconomic inequalities.

powerful nations such as Turkey, is represented by

The successful Spanish transition may serve again

Massoud Barzani, President of the Iraqi Kurdistan

as a case study, in particular pertinent today in order

Region. The second one, represented by Abdullah

to understand how coherent socioeconomic poli-

Öcalan, head of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK),

cies may contribute to the successful completion of

is based on leftist political ideology and focuses on

transition. The Spanish experience reveals that the

the struggle for Kurdish civil rights. The rise of ISIS

socioeconomic negotiation and pact in the search

as a common enemy has reduced the intra-Kurdish

for equity and prosperity represent a fundamental

divisions. Kobani, perceived as a radical defender

step towards the achievement of a comprehensive

of Kurdish resistance, has somehow fostered the

transition. In other words, in order to be effective,

desire for unity among Kurds in Iraq, Syria, Turkey

political and institutional transformations need to be



combined with negotiated socioeconomic reforms.

economic expansion, Spain experienced a period of

Along with a commonly shared long-term perspec-

intense growth and social and economic transforma-

tive for the future of the country, the effective socio-

tion. Notably, the 1959 Stabilisation Plan offered the

economic reforms are the necessary prerequisites

basis for further evolution. During that period from

to generate the consensus, the cornerstone of any

1961 to 1973, the average annual growth of Spain

successful democratic transition.

was around 6.5% to 7%. Despite a short but difficult

However, in order to understand the transition from

initial period of adjustment in 1960, the country was

an authoritarian system to democracy, as in other

able to meet modest but real and accelerated pros-

cases, the Spanish transition should be analysed

perity that opened new possibilities for consumption

from a historical perspective. The Spanish Civil War

and progress to the middle and working classes for

(1936-1939) and the decade after were one of the darkest moments in Spanish history, politically, from

the first time.10 Taking advantage of the overall positive economic

a human point of view, and economically. During the

cycle of the West, internal and international migration

First World War, as Spain had not been involved and

– with the subsequent remittances from abroad –

did not support any particular side in the conflict, the

along with tourism and foreign investment, Spain

country had the chance to take important economic

managed to achieve significant socioeconomic goals

advantages from the war as a privileged supplier of

and finance its industrialisation, despite incurring a

industrial as well as raw materials in the different

permanent deficit in its trade balance. This situation

tight markets of both contending parties. In complete

clearly recalls the Tunisian case thirty years later,

contrast, during the Second World War the impover-

during my mission there as Spanish ambassador in

ished Spain was not so fortunate. The country had

the Ben Ali years. In fact, in both Spain and Tunisia,

been greatly affected by its own civil conflict, which

a favourable international economic environment,

almost completely destroyed the Spanish economic

migration and tourism were key factors for socioeco-


nomic development in times of major internal politi-

The possibility of engaging in a democratic transition

cal stagnation. The Spanish experience also recalls

at the end of the Second World War, as the republican

to a lesser extent the present situation in Morocco,

opposition in exile had hoped, vanished immediately.

where 9% of total GNP is generated by remittances

In the aftermath of the war, Spain, as a former almost-

of Moroccans working abroad.

ally of the axis powers under the rule of General

In the early 1970s, the political regime in Spain

Franco, was ostracised. However, in the new bipolar

started to weaken. This moment coincided with the

world, Franco, as a clear anti-communist ruler, started

first oil crisis in 1973. Considering the fragile stability

to be internationally accepted by the West for the

of the regime, the government did not pass on the

sake of the Cold War. The recognition of Franco’s

impact of the crisis of the oil prices to the public but

regime and the end of the political isolation of Spain

undertook some compensatory measures. These

was officially confirmed in 1953, when Spain and the

policies, or rather the lack of appropriate correcting

United States signed the Pact of Madrid, providing

measures, led to cumulative dysfunctionality and

for the military and political content of the relations

imbalances in the Spanish economy.

between the two countries. Although no significant

After Franco’s death on 20th November 1975, the

political changes occurred, between the 1950s and

accession of Juan Carlos as king opened a new era.

the 1960s, with the wave of the overall European

In a few months, Adolfo Suárez was appointed the

10. Florensa, S., et al. (1998). La España del desarrollo. Años del boom económico. Historia Universal. Siglo XX. Historia 16.



new President of the Government. After decades of

should be recognised. The effort to admit both new

authoritarian regime, general elections were needed.

and old leaders, representatives and experts gener-

However, in order to make them possible, it was first

ated the necessary consensus that was to be the

essential to adopt a series of crucial measures to

basis of economic prosperity, social development and

change the political landscape, such as a new elec-

the fulfilment of exhaustive democratic dialogue. In

toral law, legalisation of all political parties, including

practice, the Pacts and all the measures that followed

the communist party, the preparation and approval

liberalised the markets and included the reform of a

of a new constitution and the reorganisation and

great number of fundamental social and economic

subordination of the military to civil power. The adop-

structures, from the fiscal and tax systems and insti-

tion of those measures enabled Spain to go further

tutions to the health or pension systems.

down the path of political transition. While the new

In 1979, the country was greatly affected by the

constitution (finally adopted in 1978) was being

second oil crisis and it had to deal with a wave of

negotiated in the newly-elected parliament, Suárez

imported inflation. These events led to a period of

formed a government and was finally able to tackle

political turmoil, the victory of the socialist party in the

the economic problems to correct the imbalances,

new general elections and the appointment in 1982

which otherwise could have endangered the overall

of Felipe González as the Spain’s first socialist prime

democratic transition.

minister in the new democracy. The subsequent dec-

In 1978, after a period of negotiation between

ade of socioeconomic prosperity is still remembered

the government, political parties, trade unions and

by Spanish socialists as the “prodigious decade”. This

entrepreneurs’ associations, they agreed on all the

period was indeed undeniably marked by some major

measures included in the Moncloa Pacts. On the

events, such as the Olympic Games in Barcelona and

political level, the agreed-upon reforms included

the Seville Expo ‘92. The “prodigious decade” had an

the freedom of expression and freedom of the

extended life after a short recession in 1993-94 and

press, with the vanishing of censorship, the reform

finally ended in 2007, when Spain was heavily hit by

of the judiciary, the rights of assembly and of politi-

the international financial and economic crisis.

cal association, and the abolition of the structure

In conclusion, the Spanish transition offers particu-

of the National Movement, a kind of single official

larly interesting ground for reflection. Because of

party. On the economic front, a devaluation of the

a number of similarities with the Arab transitions,

peseta was set in order to contain inflation, the

it can serve as an iconic case study to overcome

monetary policy was tightened, and a fiscal reform

the socioeconomic inequalities as one of the main

was adopted to increase state revenues. On the

causes of the recent popular uprisings in the South-

socioeconomic level, the trade unions accepted

ern Mediterranean countries. The Spanish experience

that, in order to correct inflation, wages would

not only shows the great link between inequalities,

be indexed on the basis of the limited increase

economic difficulties and popular unrest but it also

in prices forecast for the following year, and not

presents some strategies to re-establish prosper-

automatically, according to the higher inflation of

ity and successfully fulfil the democratic transition.

the previous year.

However, one has to consider that the factors, which

The Moncloa Pacts had positive and extended effects

may have led to the transformation in one country,

both at the political and the economic and social level

might not prove sufficient in another. Therefore, one-

and paved the way for further political and institutional

size-fits-all solutions should not be extracted from

reforms. Besides the broad success of the Pacts, the

the European cases but rather the specificities of the

constructive effort to include all the relevant politi-

Arab experience must be understood, and more so in

cal, social and economic actors in the negotiations

the extremely difficult conditions in the Middle East.




society representatives will be decisive in designing


an inclusive socioeconomic model and determining

It is interesting to note the relevance of leadership

a strong and legitimate leadership.

in designing new socioeconomic politics in times of

On the other hand, the inclusiveness of the socio-

transition. The South African experience, as explained

economic policies in the region has failed in part

in the authoritative contribution by Caryn Abrahams

because they have been conceived to preserve the

in this volume, illustrates the role of a major party, the

macroeconomic equilibria, responding to the neolib-

African National Congress, which literally made the

eral standards. The states have concluded trade and

transition. This leadership, incarnated by Nelson

commercial agreements without thinking enough

Mandela in the 1990s, has been gradually eroded

about microeconomic reforms, such as empower-

since then, and the country currently faces more dif-

ment of small business owners, women or young

ficulties to maintain a political project able to include

entrepreneurs, and sectorial strategies, for example

all sides of the social spectrum. In comparison, no dominant political actor has guided transitions in the

development of sustainable energy or sustainable agriculture and land recovery.12 This, however, would

Arab countries because of and extremely fragmented

need to involve new incentives, fiscal policies and

and ideologically polarised political arena.

law reforms. The 2011 Moroccan Constitution or the

In fact, the leadership derives from traditional and

2014 Tunisian Constitution point in that direction, but

“apolitical” authorities, such as the king in Morocco,

they still have to be implemented in practice.


who gave impetus to restart the dialogue between stakeholders and to revive socioeconomic initiatives,


or from former elites, who participated in the moderni-


sation of the state before the political transition. The


Spanish transition is a clear example of the latter: the

Ethnic, religious, social and identity divisions within

technocrats, who resolved part of the socioeconomic

societies in post-revolutionary periods, if not ade-

problems in 1977 and participated in the negotia-

quately addressed, may endanger the successful

tions of the Moncloa Pacts, had previously worked

transformation to democracy and even lead to the

on economic planning under Franco’s rule. However,

re-establishment of an authoritarian regime. Socio-

the concern remains whether the former technocratic

economic inequalities and exclusion in particular are

elites involved in designing the new politics can be

the main immediate reasons behind violence during

ideologically non-biased. The example is the return of

the democratisation period. In Geoffrey Macdonald’s

the economic elites in Tunisia formerly linked to Ben

contribution, Indonesia is depicted as a country where

Ali, whose loyalty to the new democratic principles

religious differences were successfully overcome

may be questioned by the new elites.

through the adoption of a specific governing sys-

Despite the complex situation to provide for a cohe-

tem. The case of Iraq, at the other end of the spec-

sive leadership, Arab countries could benefit from an

trum, has illustrated the problematic issue of identity

effective and relatively new instrument: civil society,

politics and the nation-state in the Arab World. And

which has gained significant strength in the Arab

Yemen showcased how the deep social divisions

World in the last five years. The way the political

may threaten democratic transition. Overall, stable

power guarantees channels for dialogue with civil

institutions, as a result of reasonable balanced social

11. See the chapter of Caryn Abrahams included in this volume. 12. See the chapter of Larbi Jaidi included in this volume.



structures and inclusive socioeconomic policies, are

process, the revolutionary actors should agree on the

necessary to establish and consolidate democracy in

importance of social and economic development as

divided societies.

a way to make life better for all citizens, and not only

Transitions do not necessarily lead to democracy.

on the unfairness of the old regime and the need to

They can reverse and even lead to the restoration of

overthrow it. Most of the militant groups recruit their

authoritarianism as a reaction to chaos. In this way,

partisans among young educated but poor or middle

the recent European transitions are an exception

class people, frustrated with the lack of employ-

because all of them have successfully resulted in

ment opportunities. In order to halt this process,

the consolidation of democracy. However, historically

these youngsters should be given the opportunity to

the search for stability has prevailed over the search

find a job or undertake the entrepreneurial path, as

for freedom. This confirms the historical review of

small as it may be, to create their own employment.

different approaches, such as Plato’s equation of

Militant groups are also gaining in strength thanks

democracy with chaos, the Hobbesian social contract

to the promotion of political violence by reactionary

based on the search for stability or Kant’s assertion:

groups, inducing it directly or by provoking hostilities

“Argue as much as you please, but obey.” Democracy

between different factions asking for change. The

cannot be understood only in terms of participation. In

inclusion of the old elites in the new political and

order to achieve a stable democracy, there is a need

economic system could, if skilfully driven, prevent this

for institutions, constitutionally defined and protected

kind of reaction of the old elites from jeopardising

from any political interference. It is therefore difficult

the transformation.

to achieve consolidated democracy in weak states.

The Indonesian case is presented by Geoffrey Mac-

In addition, social structures are resilient. A political system in which each ethnic, religious or national

donald as a success story of transition from authoritarianism to democracy.13 Considering its deeply

community is autonomous becomes no longer pos-

divided society, the predominance of Muslims in the

sible, as it intensifies ethnic or religious differences,

population, the significant religious minority and the

leading dominant groups to question the rights of

internal doctrinal and technical division of the Muslim

others. Unfortunately, that process characterises

community itself, he observes that Indonesia may

most of the conflicts in the Middle East and North

serve as a comparative reference for Middle Eastern

Africa region, where, in some cases, polarisation has

Muslim countries. The transition from dictatorship into

even led to humanitarian crisis.

a stable democracy in Indonesia has been possible

Transition periods have been judged as vulnerable to

due to the specific design of the governing system.

violence, especially from non-state groups. The politi-

Power decentralisation and the nature of the electoral

cal power vacuum between the removal of the old

system, in which the voters select candidates instead

regime and the establishment of a new one can lead

of parties in multiple districts, has incentivised politi-

to political competition that often ends in clashes.

cal parties to play local politics and to be as politically

The outbreak of political violence is most probable

broadminded as possible in order to enter parliament.

when the elites feel threatened by the possibility of

This arrangement has forced some political parties

change of the current regime. Major grievances arise

to abandon their ethnic or religious discourse for the

around acute inequalities in economic opportunities

more centrist one. The case of the Islamic party may

and the feeling of wounded dignity. Therefore, in

serve as an example. After gaining only 7% of the

order to reduce violence during the democratisation

vote, the party dropped the idea of Sharia for a more

13. See the chapter of Geoffrey Macdonald included in this volume.



moderate rhetoric. Taking into account the similarities

two separated countries, South and North Yemen,

Indonesia shares with the Middle East, this institu-

were each imposing a distinct model of democracy.

tional design, which led to the emergence of centrist

In North Yemen, tribalism and a minimum modality of

and modern political parties, could be, according to

democracy, based only on elections, prevailed. South

Macdonald, adapted to the Middle East context. How-

Yemen was much more liberal, with the maximum

ever, before simply applying the Indonesian model to

type of democracy, where social justice and human

the Arab world, firstly it should be assessed whether

rights were respected. After unification, North Yemen

specific historical, social and economic conditions in

imposed its political system on the newly-unified

the Middle East may influence its effectiveness in

country. The social divisions led to the outbreak of

each case.

the civil war in 1994, which resulted in the revival of

On the issue of identity politics in political transi-

the tribal structure. All the power has been concen-

tions, the main question is how the Arab transitions

trated in the hands of the tribal leaders. As a con-

can fit in a globalising world, and whether the non-

sequence, state structures have disappeared and

Western transitions can be successful without “West-

the middle class and huge parts of civil society were

ern ideals”. The Arab World is wondering whether

excluded from the political scene. Thus, the unifica-

the nations are sufficiently prepared to build new

tion process was not successful, and some parts of

states or whether the nation-building is a part of the

society are now calling for a re-establishment of an

Western colonial programme. One of the core ele-

independent southern state. The solution to the deep

ments of the post-colonialism period is the issue of

social division seems to be the establishment of a

identity politics, which is presented as an expression

real democracy, where all citizens enjoy equal rights

of nation-building. National identity, present in West-

and treatment.

ern culture, is at the centre of the debates on statebuilding in the Arab world and an issue that generates


most of the tensions in the region. In Iraq, the state,


and through it the nation itself, were built around

On the influence of international and regional actors

the Sunni identity, which led to the marginalisation

on political developments in the Southern Mediter-

of other faiths and communities, affecting national

ranean region, it is interesting to examine the role the

integration and causing violent clashes. Since 2003,

European Union has played in promoting democracy

the Iraqi state has been redefined in order to reflect

in Eastern and Southern Europe, compared with its

this diversity. However, the system based on the rec-

current policies towards the Southern Mediterranean.

ognition and institutionalisation of ethnic identities,

As for the United States, its policies towards the Arab

without providing their equal participation in the ruling

World have been considered in Marina Ottaway’s

establishment, resulted in strengthening the feeling

valuable contribution to this volume with the example

of belonging to community identities, at the expense

of Egypt. Furthermore, we have to bring into the pic-

of national identity. In other words, in the case of Iraq,

ture the involvement of the regional actors during and

both the nation-state and the state of identities have

after the Arab uprisings. Syria is the most tormented

proved to be inadequate. The division of societies and its impact on a transi-

playground for regional powers, whose interests and

tion to democracy may be analysed with the exam-

opments in the country. Fractures within the GCC, as

ple of Yemen. Prior to the unification in 1990, the

a result of different policies towards the Arab Spring


14. See the chapter of Haider Saeed included in this volume.

priorities have a decisive impact on the future devel-



countries, have been developing, especially in the first

European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) countries,

stages of the Arab Spring.15

East and South, as unequal partners. Although the

The EU was one of the main drivers of political

EU values and welfare state model continue to be

change in Eastern Europe. The successful transition

attractive for the Southern Mediterranean countries,

of these countries into democracies has been possi-

there is a gap between the expectations and the

ble due to three major factors: the carrot of member-

capabilities to support the region. Thus, in order to

ship; solid state structures, able to adapt to the new

adapt to the new geopolitical context, the EU current

challenges; and party consensus on the need to join

logic of cooperation with its southern neighbours is to

the EU. The conditionality policy also played a crucial

be reformed. To enhance its leverage, the EU should

role in fostering democratisation, as it adjusted the

offer the Southern Mediterranean countries at least a

speed of the enlargement process to the process of

prospect of joining some of the EU sectorial policies,

introducing the necessary reforms. In the current EU

related to market or mobility, in addition to substan-

candidate countries, these special factors are lacking.

tially higher financial or monetary support; that is, the

In the Balkan countries, the state structures are weak,

three Ms approach currently asked for.

tensions within and among the states remain and the

Focusing on another important actor in the region,

elite disagrees on the accession to the EU. In order to

the United States, Marina Ottaway provides, as we

enhance political changes in the Eastern Partnership countries, the EU applies the same instruments used

said, a most interesting assessment of its impact on political developments in the Arab World.17 Since the

during the enlargement process: conditionality and

end of the Cold War, where state interests prevailed

the more for more approach. However, their impact is

over idealistic visions, the US has been struggling

lessened mainly because of the lack of a membership

between running a foreign policy based on interests

carrot and the strong opposition of Russia.

and the policy based on values. In the case of Egypt,

The EU does not have as transformative a power over

the country has been an important US ally in the

the Southern Mediterranean region as it had in East-

region for a long time. Immediately after the outbreak

ern Europe, mainly because of limited resources, lack

of the uprising in January 2011, the US defended

of a structural offer and lack of accession prospect.16 The current EU support is insufficient to enhance the

Mubarak. Afterwards, however, the country changed

EU leverage in the region, especially if compared with

support for the democratic process in Egypt, at least

the financial help provided by some regional actors

in terms of the elections, was based on the hope that

from the Gulf. Moreover, despite the same framework,

the so-called liberals would rise to power. Although

the EU socioeconomic support for its southern neigh-

the victory was finally won by the Muslim Brother-

bourhood in per capita terms is far less considerable

hood, the US decided to back the result. After the out-

than for Eastern Partnership countries. In addition, the

break of protests against Mursi, the US put pressure

cooperation instruments have hardly changed. The

on Egypt to organise more parliamentary elections.

only major change was the reorientation of priorities

The US policy towards Egypt is influenced by three

on civil society and socioeconomic issues. The main

major factors: the first one is the democracy issue.

EU instruments, conditionality and differentiation,

The law obliges the US to stop aid to a country where

are ineffective and the EU continues to treat the

a democratically-elected government is deposed in

its position and called on Mubarak to leave. The US

15. Lynch, M. (2014). The Arab Uprisings Explained: New Contentious Politics in the Middle East. New York, US: Columbia University Press. 16. Khader. B. (2015). Europa y el Mundo Árabe. Una evaluación de las políticas europeas 1957-2015. Barcelona: Icaria-IEMed. 17. See the chapter of Marina Ottaway included in this volume.



a coup d’état. However, the US never confirmed or

ings. The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt brought

denied the coup d’état, thus making its policy towards

new governments to power. As a consequence,

Egypt rather ambiguous. The second factor is Israel.

the regional states started to fear a change in the

As long as the new Egyptian president is cooperating

alliance system and in the balance of power in the

with the Israeli government in terms of security, the

region. Due to close military and economic rela-

Israeli government will lobby for American support

tions of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates

for Egypt. The last factor is DAESH. As long as Egypt

with Egypt, both countries reacted cautiously to the

is cooperating in eradicating terrorism, the US will

events that removed their close ally Mubarak from

continue to support the country.

the Presidency. Despite its economic interests in

The role of regional actors in shaping the regional

Egypt, Qatar considered it more important to ally

dynamic in the most dramatic way is most evident

with a new regime, as it believed that the develop-

in the case of Syria. The early 1980s witnessed two

ments caused by the Arab Spring were irreversible.

major shifts in the region: the exclusion of Egypt

In the case of Syria, Qatar and Saudi Arabia favoured

from the Arab World, as a consequence of the Camp

maintaining the status quo and drawing the regime

David Accord, and the outbreak of the Iraq-Iran War.

away from the influence of Iran, rather than over-

As a result of these developments, Syria rose from

throwing it. However, their approach changed after

being an arena for others to become a major regional

the increase of the regime violence, even leading the

player. Since 9/11 and the US invasion of Iraq, the

GCC to expel Syria from the Arab League. The grow-

environment has radically changed. Syria’s opposition

ing Iranian hegemony in Syria and the rise of DAESH

to the invasion resulted in the imposition of harsh

have caused major concerns for the Gulf countries.

sanctions on the Syrian economy, which led to the

Nevertheless, in order to stabilise the situation in

country’s gradual isolation and loss of influence. Iso-

the region, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi

lated by the West and by Saudi Arabia, Syria turned

Arabia would need to put aside their differences

into a weak state and started to rely increasingly on

with Turkey and come to an agreement concern-

Iran. In order to balance the Iranian influence in Syria,

ing the security policy towards Iraq and Syria. The

Bashar al-Assad decided to ally more closely with

major issue preventing cooperation is the Muslim

Turkey, leading to growing Turkish influence in Syria.

Brotherhood. While Turkey is strongly supporting the

The Iranian will to fill the vacuum in Iraq after the US

Muslim Brotherhood, Saudi Arabia and the United

withdrawal caused major concerns for Turkey and

Arab Emirates perceive it as a threat. Thus, it was

Saudi Arabia. Currently, the region is caught between

observed that Qatar could use its significant relations

three different pressures: the more moderate one led

with Turkey to play the role of mediator and enable

by Turkey, the other two much more involved, one by

better cooperation between Turkey, the United Arab

Saudi Arabia and the last one led by Iran. These three

Emirates and Saudi Arabia to prevent Bashar al-

players have turned the conflict in Syria into a war of

Assad or DAESH from winning in Syria, which with

proxies over their regional dominance in the Middle

the growing role of both Russia and Iran would pose

East. Therefore, the peace in Syria would not be pos-

a threat to the whole region. Then will come the cru-

sible without those three regional powers agreeing

cial issue of how to incorporate Iran into the general

on a solution.

understanding to pacify and stabilise the region, but

Finally, we have to especially consider the policies of

even then the democratic transition processes would

the Gulf countries before and after the Arab upris-

still lie ahead.



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