Summary of ‘Why Are There No Arab Democracies? Essay

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Larry Diamond's presentation explores the question of why there are no Arab democracies in the Middle East and North Africa. He shows us the relatively stagnant levels of democratic freedoms that have been the norm in the region for the past several decades. Diamond gives us a multitude of potential explanations for the absence of a sustainable democracy.
His first explanation implicates that there must be something within the Islam or Arab culture or religion, that prevents the formation of a democratic society. Because as Alfred Stepan and Graeme Robertson stated, the “democracy gap” among states in the world is an Arab gap much more than a “Muslim” gap as there are eight, non-Arab Muslim-majority states that have democratic
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Diamond states this as a sum up of this theory,
“There is, then, an economic basis for the absence of democracy in the Arab world. But it is structural. It has to do with the ways in which oil distorts the state, the market, the class structure, and the entire incentive structure. Particularly in an era of high global oil prices, the effects of the oil curse are relentless: Not a single one of the 23 countries that derive most of their export earnings from oil and gas is a democracy today.”

Diamond’s third notion came from a variety of political and institutional problems that are one the main obstacles for the Middle East region. For one, these regimes have become extremely adept at repressing anyone who speaks against them within their societies. For another, they have started to use short bursts of political reform to relieve temporary demands for reform while leaving intact executive monopolies over state resources. Further, they efficiently divide opposition parties and civic forces, often by imposing electoral rules and regulations that make it impossible for civil society-which is generally weak and fragmented-to, mount concerted campaigns against the state apparatus. Diamond’s last explanation speaks on the dual issues of Islamism and the Arab-Israeli conflict, and how it plays into each side’s regime survival strategy. Authoritarian incumbents play up the
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