Who is next after Tunisia and Egypt?

Here are some answers.

Questions:

1. Do you think there is a chance protests from Tunisia and Egypt will spread in the region and perhaps even beyond, and why?

2. Which country (countries) is (are) the most vulnerable to the changes on the scale as we have seen in Egypt or Tunisia, and why?

Answers:

Ragui Assaad, Professor at Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota

1. The whole region will definitely be inspired by what on in Egypt and it will start calls for change throughout the region.  However, I don’t believe that this necessarily means that other regimes will fall, but it does mean that other regimes will start to make serious reforms to accommodate the democratic aspirations of their people.

2. The most vulnerable in my view is Yemen.  However change in Yemen may not be as benign as what we have seen in Egypt.  Yemen is a much more vulnerable state that could fall apart under pressure.

Noah Bassil, Lecturer, Centre for Middle East and North African Studies, Macquarie University

1. I do think that the events in Tunisia and Egypt may in fact have broader implications for other Arab regimes and even beyond. In the Arab world the uprisings provide clear evidence of the popular power and represent the power of the disenfranchised youth who patience with the promises and platitudes of the old guard have run out. Also, this represents for me, the running out of the promise of the post Cold War neo-liberal development project which has been shown not to deliver improvements in living standards but greater wealth for a small circle of indigneous and foreign elites and global conglomerates. So, the uprisings in the Middle East are directed at their leadership but also the failure of the policies that have been implemented under the auspices of the WB/IMF/US/EU advisors. I have already witnessed murmurings of similar dissatisfaction in other places, such as South Africa and Nigeria, two of Africa’s largest countries, and across Latin America. Also, as we saw in Europe last year, especially in France, that people are fed up with the false promises of market fundamentalism and belief that their social democracy is worth protecting. Uprisings in Tunis and Cairo are pro-democratic, but also social democratic in the 1960s sense of the term, and this may prove inspirational for a left politics that has been largely irrelevant for almost twenty years.

2. This is a really difficult question because it’s hard to know what historical accidents may intervene to change the course of events. I would think on the face of it that Algeria and Sudan are two countries where the ruling elite are most nervous, certainly the Yemeni regime is tottering on the edge, but I think that the internal problems that Yemen faces suggests that this government’s hold on power was tenuous to begin with.Syria seems realtively immune from the uprisings that have exploded elsewhere, but how long this lasts is uncertain, my estimation is that Bashar Assad’s youth, anti-Americanism and resistance to the neo-liberal privatisations and market reforms has probably insulated him somewhat, but some reforms and loosening of censorship and security may follow in Syria in the wake of theseevents. The most interesting and possibly complex case is SaudiArabia, which is highly inequitable, intensely insular and strictlyauthoritarian, but also able to use it’s immense oil wealth to keep some lid on dissatisfaction, whether this model can survive the upheavals of the last two months is hard to predict, but my inclination is that the Saudi regime will react by trying to distribute more wealth to its dissaffected populace and try to intensify security and censorship through the religious authorities at the same time. The result of this might be to buy some time, but eventually even Saudi Arabia will have to deal with pro-democracy pressures.

Ahron Bregman, Teaching Fellow, Department of War Studies, Kings College London

1. Yes, there is a good chance that protest will spread further – if not today, then tomorrow and if not tomorrow then somewhere in the future. There’s a new spirit in the Middle East and growing confidence of “the people” that they can change the old system. As in many revolutions the young play a leading role here all and they have a huge advantage: advanced communications systems – internet, twiter, social networks and so on – that help them enormously to organise themselves and spread their messages.

2. The next candidates for a popular revolution could be Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and other repressive middle eastern regimes. And I’ll add another one: the occupied territories, particularly the West Bank where many Palestinians are sick and tired of the Israeli occupation. I will not be suprised at all if any Tunisian-Egyptian-style-uprising, against the Israeli occupation gets the support of – yes – President Barack Obama. Such an American support to Israel’s enemies was, of course, unthinkable in the past. But I suspect that Obama is as sick and tired of the Israelis as the Palestinians.

Jonathan Schanzer, Vice President of Research, Foundation for Defense of Democracies

1. I think there is a good chance that the protests will spread.  Indeed, they already have.  Protests continue today in Algeria and Yemen, for example.  And there has been sporadic unrest in Jordan since the crisis began in Egypt some three weeks ago.  The thing to remember here is that Egypt is largely seen as the leader of the Arab world.  The rest of the Arab states take their cues from Egypt.  This is not to say that they will be as successful in prompting regime change.  But I think it’s fair to expect other Arab populations to try and replicate what we’ve seen happen in Tunisia and Egypt.

2. All of the dictators and kings in the region are undoubtedly on edge.  The fall of Ben Ali and Mubarak demonstrated that no regime is safe.

Algeria may be the most vulnerable.  Located in North Africa, the population there is no doubt inspired by the fall of the two other North African leaders. It is also important to note that the country has witnessed a great deal of tumult in recent decades.  And under the current regime, it has has only stabilized on the surface.

Some analysts point to Yemen as the next hot spot, but I don’t believe Saleh can easily be toppled. He has pacts with powerful tribal patriarchs that cannot easily be broken.

One interesting country to watch is Jordan.  King Abdullah has agreed to negotiate with the Muslim Brotherhood on issues like election laws.  If those laws change, the Brotherhood will be poised to make big gains at the polls.  And while the King can veto anything that comes out of parliament, I see a standoff in the months to come.  This will do little to improve stability there.

One other interesting space to watch is the Palestinian territories.  While I dont think that massive protests will bring down the PA, I do believe that change is coming. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat just stepped down today, amidst allegations against him spurred by the “Palestine Papers” that he sold out the Palestinian cause.  The West Bank regime has also agreed to hold elections in the coming months.  This all seems to be a response to the unrest in Egypt.

Wayne White, Policy Expert, Washington’s Middle East Policy Council

There probably will be more protests, with the fall of Egypt’s President Mubarak even more significant for most in the Arab world than what happened in Tunisia. The countries to watch most closely for potential popular unrest are Yemen, Jordan, Libya and Algeria.

In all these states, there are longstanding, corrupt, dysfunctional and abusive authoritarian regimes. Of these regimes, perhaps the most vulnerable are those of President Salih in Yemen and Muammar Qadhafi in Libya. Yemen is woefully poor and notoriously difficult to govern even in the best of times. And Libyans have endured Qadhafi’s extravagant, extremely dysfunctional and erratic rule since 1969, with the more Islamist eastern portion of Libya the most rebellious since the 1990’s. Additionally, instead of offering concessions, Qadhafi met personally with various civic leaders only to threaten them with dire consequences should they be associated with any unrest. In Algeria, an appallingly corrupt ruling elite of generals known as the “Pouvoir” (or power in French) has dominated the country since 1992. The only reason why oppositionists might proceed with some caution in Algeria is the demonstrated capability of the generals to crush insurrection with tremendous brutality. An Islamist uprising during the 1990’s was suppressed with the loss of nearly 200,000 lives. Jordan may be the least threatened because the monarchy has not ruled with the sort of heavy handedness seen in Algeria or Libya. Also, protesters in Jordan so far have not called for the removal of the king.


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2 Responses

  1. These are very informative and very credible answers. Nice compilation. I enjoyed reading different answers and strong almost valid views.

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