Can National-level Institutions Impact Democratic Transitions? Some Evidence From the Arab Spring




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In the aftermath of the historic Arab Spring wave of pro-democracy revolutions that engulfed the Middle East from 2010-2011, Tunisia emerged as the sole success story, achieving a stable multi-party constitutional system. Egypt meanwhile slid back into its old status quo of military domination over the political system after the 2013 coup against elected president Mohamed Morsi. In each case, three major national-level institutions—the military, religious parties, and labor unions—played a significant role in the success or failure of each country’s post- revolutionary transitional process. This dissertation explores what gaps exist in our present knowledge about the potential of these three institutions to cause democratic revolutions and transitions to succeed or fail through the experiences of Tunisia and Egypt. After providing a brief history of the changing politico-economic circumstances in the Arab world that led to the demonstrations of 2010-2011, the dissertation moves on to compile and compare existing academic theories about potential behavior of the military, religious parties, and labor unions during and after pro-democracy uprisings. It then outlines the case studies of Tunisia and Egypt, documenting the historical evolution and behavior of all three institutions during and after each country’s revolution. After this, it analyzes how well existing academic theories explained the behavior of each institution in Egypt and Tunisia and uses this to identify holes in our present knowledge. Finally, this dissertation concludes by proposing a new theory of military behavior in post-revolutionary transition periods, an area largely unexplored by current research, as well as proposing a new theory of what factors position labor unions to steer a democratic transition process. Along with this, it argues that its exploratory model framework can readily be adapted to other country and institution case studies outside the Arab world.



Political Science, General