World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


TRADITION, EXTERNAL FACTORS AND POLITICAL CHANGE IN THE ARAB MEDITERRANEAN COUNTRIES - 2/3: Domestic Factors and Political Change in Arab Mediterranean Countries (233) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: WED 21, 2.30-4.30 pm

· NOT_DEFINED institution: EuroMed Center and University of Catania

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Fulvio Attinà and Stefania Panebianco

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: The third wave of democratization which started in 1974 seems to have left the Arab Mediterranean countries untouched. What is missing in this regional area is a widespread democratic contagion leading to the replacement of the old authoritarian regimes existing in the area. On the one hand, countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Morocco are going through some political changes which very recently have allowed them to be regarded as ‘partially free’ countries. While other countries such as Egypt or Tunisia have not experienced any political reforms. In the best case scenario, transition to democracy is blocked and hybrid regimes have replaced authoritarian ones.

Which are the reasons of these blocked transitions? This symposium seeks to explore the reasons why the Arab Mediterranean countries are experiencing difficult transitions to democracy (if any at all). It seeks to shed light upon the key issue, i.e. whether the specificity of this regional area requires the elaboration of new concepts. Or, conversely, whether the concepts and analytical categories elaborated by the literature on democratic transition can be applied to the Arab Mediterranean countries, although they are drawn from the democratization processes which took place in other regional areas.

The papers presented in this symposium will be theoretically oriented researches and/or country-based analyses. By adopting preferably a comparative approach, the papers will investigate the key factors leading to political reform and eventually democratic change: domestic political actors; socio-economic development; the respect of the rule of law; the role of civil society; the EU assistance to democracy and human rights, and the role of other relevant international actors; also the influence of religion upon democracy will be investigated.

PANEL II investigates some structural characteristics of the Mediterranean countries in order to explore domestic factors favouring/impeding any political change in this area. The panel is composed of country-oriented and issue-oriented papers which will illustrate the difficult transition to democracy. The crucial role and influence of political parties, civil society, religion, oil, clientelism, in countries such as Lebanon, Morocco, Palestinian Authority, but also Turkey, will be investigated.

Chair: Stelios Stavridis, University of Saragoza (Spain)

Discussant: Fulvio Attinà (University of Catania)

Paper presenter: Rosita Di Peri, University of Torino, “The question of democracy in the Arab world and the role of fragmented societies: the case of Lebanon”
The experience of 'liberalization' in the Arab world during the 1990s in many cases involved de-liberalisation or new forms of authoritarianism. The main approaches utilized to explain these phenomena mostly use the paradigm of transition to democracy, but the absence of linearity of the democratization processes put in discussion this theory and its application in that part of the world (Carothers, 2002; Brumberg, 2002).
Thus, to study the Arab world, it is necessary re-thinking the approaches, especially the politological ones, starting from the structural characteristics of the Arab societies, instead that from western paradigms. The Arab world is a inhomogeneous area, with different historical and political paths. An important characteristic is that many Arab societies appear plural and fragmented (Lijparth) and many analysts consider these aspects "responsible" for the region's lack of democracy. At the same time, some European and non European states are fragmented and this is not symptomatic of a democratic deficit.
Do the characteristics of plural societies "require" hybrid systems of government? Do the fragmented societies act and function through the "western democracy" (that in our hypothesis is a kind of paradigm best suited to homogenous societies)? In these particular contexts, is protecting the diversity which demarcates these societies more important than respecting western rules?
Starting from the abovementioned theoretical aspects, this paper will try to analyse the specificities of western democratic models in order to compare them with the most studied fragmented society of the (de)liberalised political systems of the Arab world: Lebanon. This country represents a perfect case study for his “fragmented” and quasi-democratic political system. Lebanon case will be useful to rethink western approaches and models both from theoretical and practical perspective.

Paper presenter: Luca Ozzano, University of Torino, “Religion and Democratization: The Turkish Case”
The debate about the relations between religion and democratization is an old one: already in the mid-19th Century, some theorists hypothesized a positive influence of the Protestant culture on the potential for democratization of some countries, as well as a negative role played by Catholicism in other regions of the world. In the 1990s the civilizational approach proposed by Samuel P. Huntington has sparkled new discussions, with several interesting contributions. Particularly, some authors cast serious doubts on the compatibility of Islam with democracy and liberal values. This fact increases the significance of Turkey as an example of a Muslim majority country in which a rather stable democratic political system has developed. After a review of the most significant literature, this paper will explore the role played by religion in the democratization of the country after the 1980 military coup, with a particular attention for the experience of the religiously-oriented AKP party, currently in power, its struggle against the secular Kemalist establishment, and its influence on Turkey’s democracy.

Paper presenter: Mohammed Akacem, Metropolitan State College of Denver,
“Oil, institutions and the quest for democracy in the Arab World”
Relative to the rest of the world, the Arab world has lagged in its drive towards democracy and the establishment of an economies that respond to the challenges of the region. One of them is the creation of millions of jobs in view of the youth bulge that the region faces in addition to the establishment of the appropriate institutions, the rule of law and a sense that the average citizen has a stake in the future of his/her nation's economic and political development. For the oil producers within the Arab world, oil- in some cases- has led to less not more economic growth as well as to all of the negative effects of the resource curse. The paper will consider and explore the feasibility of an oil privatization scheme that may relieve some of the constraints faced by the Arab countries and set the stage for a peaceful transition to healthier political and economic systems.

Paper presenter: Nezha Moussadek, Cabinet de Veille & Conseil Strategique, Casablanca, "Moroccan Political Parties Promoting Democracy. Women’s political participation issue"
Despite recent political improvements in Morocco, political parties continue to face challenges similar to those faced elsewhere in the world. Political parties find themselves in crisis, unpopular and increasingly distrusted. They are suffering from declining membership, internal management practices that are often weak. In spite of the quota, the number of women represented in leadership positions in political parties reveals a weakness in the internal democratic process within political parties and a certain laziness to achieve the democratic transition and to make it sustainable. Emphasis will be placed on the issue of the political participation of women in leadership and elected political positions. Weak institutionalization and the prevalence of clientelism and other challenges are facing women to become a real political force. What contributions do, or could, political parties make to enhance democratic developments in Morocco and increase by the way, women's political participation? This paper analyzes the situation through the latest elections and demonstrates to which extent political parties incorporate gender demands and contribute to mainstream the gender perspective.