Studies 25 September, 2012

The “Arab Spring” in the Kingdoms

Zoltan Barany

Zoltan Barany is the Frank C. Erwin, Jr. Centennial Professor of Government at the University of Texas.  His most recent books are The Soldier and the Changing State: Building Democratic Armies in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas (Princeton University Press, 2012), Democratic Breakdown and the Decline of the Russian Military (Princeton University Press, 2007), and, as co-editor Is Democracy Exportable? (Cambridge University Press, 2009).

The revolutions that have rocked the presidential republics of North Africa and the Middle East since early-2011 have garnered intense scholarly and journalistic interest and, in a short time, spawned an extensive literature. The Arab world's eight monarchies - Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) - with the notable exception of the first, a tiny island kingdom off the coast of Saudi Arabia, have escaped the brunt of the upheaval and received relatively modest attention. The analysis in this paper consists of two main parts. In the first, I briefly describe the unrest in the dynastic and linchpin monarchies, followed by a detailed examination of the key factors that explain the varying experiences of the Arab Spring in the eight kingdoms. In the second part, the focus shifts to state responses to the protests, beginning with a concise account of the regimes' reactions, exploring the reasons for the differences among them, and discussing the role of the GCC in the upheaval. In the conclusion, I address the near- and medium-term prospects of political stability in the Arab monarchies.


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