Abstract

Managing the Transition in the Arab Spring: A Comparative Perspective

MUSTAPHA KAMEL AL-SAYYID

Cairo University

Will the Arab Spring usher in a new phase of solid democracy in Arab countries? Much depends on what happens during the transitional period which follows the fall of the old authoritarian order. The major features of the new order are shaped during this period, but those who define these features are not necessarily committed to the cause of democracy as it is understood worldwide or at least they do not have the same understanding of democracy. For some, it only means rule by the majority, or its representatives. For others it must be founded on full respect of civil and political rights as enshrined in international covenants ratified by most governments of the world. The fall of the authoritarian regimes generates also a revolution of rising expectations and the new rulers would be under pressure to respond favorably to legitimate demands for more decent life conditions and for redress of some grave violations of human rights, particularly those of minorities that were long hidden under repressive regimes. Thus the new rulers are faced by formidable challenges which they are expected to manage well during the short time given to them to establish a new order. This paper will strive to analyse how the management of the transitional phase could pave the way to democracy or could simply be a prelude to more political instability and national disintegration in countries of the Arab Spring. The case of Egypt is taken as a mirror reflecting the difficulties involved in the management of the transitional period. References to other Arab countries would demonstrate that such difficulties are not unique to Egypt.