Routes To Arab Democracy

by Patrick Appel

Shadi Hamid explains them:

Two models of democratic change are emerging. One is the Tunisia-Egypt-Yemen model of overturning the regime. This would seem to apply in republics, where protesters have one simple, overarching demand – that the president give up power. The person of the president, because of his dominating, partisan role, provides a rallying point for protesters. This is conducive to opposition unity. They disagree on a lot, but last they can agree on the most important thing.

The other model of change focuses around constitutional reform in the Arab monarchies.

In countries like Jordan and Morocco, there are reasonably free elections. But elections have limited relevance because it’s the king who has final decision-making authority. The problem here is not necessarily the king himself but the institution of the monarchy and its disproportionate power. The solution, then, is constitutional reform that shifts power away from the king toward an elected parliament and an independent judiciary. This is what opposition groups are calling for in Jordan.

While different, both models are about altering political structures rather than gradual, slow reform.