Uprising and Counter-Revolution: How the Authoritarian Regimes Reacted to the Arab Spring

by Maria A. Spathi


   The Arab Spring has been one of the most politically impactful series of events of the 21st century, which seriously altered the geopolitical and socioeconomic landscapes of the Middle East and North Africa region and caused ripples across the globe. The economic crisis of 2010, together with the social upheavals in the MENA states, led to the questioning of the political regimes in the region. Economic equality and prosperity, social justice, and individual and political freedoms— characteristics that prevail in many Western liberal democracies— became the desired vision for significant proportions of the Muslim population. This article examines each case individually and showcases that there were similarities in the way the regimes reacted to the protests. Along with that, governments being overthrown did not lead to regime change, nor did any of the constitutional reforms made to ease public disfavor led to democratic governance. On the contrary, several regimes became systematically more oppressive. In some cases, monetary concessions managed to appease the civil unrests, but according to statistics, those measures did not bring long-term prosperity. Ten years after the Arab Spring, indices of democracy and economic status appear to be at the same level as before 2010, while public opinion is in favor of democracy. This suggests that new unrest is possible in the region. Authoritarian preventive and repressive measures have had their day and regimes will have to look for new methods of crisis management. The gradual shift away from authoritarianism and the transition to democracy are therefore not impossible, even if they are still a long way off.


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Picture: “Graffiti against Egypt’s Interior Ministry (“they are the thugs”) and police violence”, by lokha is marked with CC BY 2.0.


The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Institute of International Relations or its members.


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