For months now, Sudanese and Algerian protesters have been taking to public squares demanding the resignation of their long-time presidents which ultimately led to their removal. There is a possibility that these protests could move to other Arab nations as well, similar to the earlier Arab spring which started nearly 9 years ago in Tunisia.
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What was the Arab Spring?
- Arab spring denotes the series of protests in the Arab countries in 2011, resulting in the removal of many dictators.
- In later 2010, protests started in Tunisia and spread to other nations such as Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain.
- The main drive for such protests was the hope that the old autocratic regimes would be replaced with new democracies.
What were the common demands of Arab Spring Protestors?
- Transformation of ruling political structures and processes from autocratic to democracy.
- Reforms in governance.
- Social equity and empowerment of poor people.
- Better opportunities in terms of education, development, and employment.
What was the result of the Arab Spring?
- Tunisia was the only country where the protestors have overthrown the dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and the country turned into a multi-party democracy = achieved the goal.
- Except for Tunisia, the result of the Arab uprising in other countries was largely tragic.
Is Arab Spring 2.0 imminent?
Severe repressions following the Arab Spring by their respective governments did not undermine the revolutionary spirit of the Arab youth. This is now being reflected in the uprisings in Algeria and Sudan with similar anti-government protests.
- Algeria is highly dependent on the hydrocarbon sector, however, it took a hit after the post-2014 commodity meltdown.
- GDP growth rate decreased from 4% in 2014 to 1.5% in 2017, and youth unemployment increased to 29%.
- This economic meltdown has happened when Mr. Abdelaziz Bouteflika (President) was missing from public engagement after being paralyzed by a stroke in 2013.
- However, the public got enraged when Bouteflika announced candidacy for 2019 presidential election wanting another 5-year term.
- In just a few days, the protests spread across the country, which resulted in military intervention and ultimately Bouteflika resigned on April 2, 2019.
Sudan: has also been affected by a serious economic crisis which led to protests across the country against Omar al-Bashir’s (President) regime. Click here to know more.
Notably, protestors in both the nations demanded regime change, just like their counterparts in Egypt and Tunisia did in 2011.
Hence both Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Omar al-Bashir who had ruled Algeria for 2 decades and Sudan for 3 decades respectively had to quit.
These developments are similar to the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings earlier, suggesting an Arab Spring 2.0.
Similar to the case of 2010-11, the 2018-19 protests are also transnational as they spread from Amman (Jordan) to Khartoum (Sudan) and Algiers (Algeria) in just a few months.
What are the major factors for the recent protests?
- The pan-Arabist anger against national governments remains the major driving force behind the protests.
- Arab rulers for years bought the loyalty of the masses through patronage and fear factor.
- But this system is no longer viable.
- In 2016, the oil prices collapsed to $30 a barrel from $140 in 2008 = affected both oil-producing and oil-importing nations.
- Due to the price fall, oil producers had cut spending (both public spending & aid for other Arab countries) = Affected Non-oil-producing economics like Jordan and Egypt who were dependent on the aid.
- In May 2018, there were huge protests in Jordan against the rising fuel prices and the proposed tax law.
- People withdrew their protests only after Prime Minister Hani Mulki stepped down from the power.
- His successor had withdrawn the tax law and King Abdullah II intervened to freeze the price hike.
What are the major reasons for the failure of such revolutions?
Strong counter-revolutionary forces: in all these countries = protestors mostly could not achieve their primary aim of putting an end to the old order.
Survival of old order: Even if the revolutionaries managed to get rid of the dictators, the system they built survives somehow and sometimes in a brutal manner.
- For instance, after 2011 protests, in Egypt, the army captured the power and it further tightened its grip on the state and society through violence and repression.
- This is seen even in the recent case of Sudan where the people protested against the regime = the military intervened -> ousted President Omar al-Bashir from the power -> captured it for itself -> then imposed the emergency. Now, protests are continuing against the military demanding a democratically elected government.
Foreign intervention: In most of these countries, the foreign intervention led to the destruction of the state and institutions one way or the other (Anarchy).
- For example, in Libya, the foreign intervention removed Muammar Qaddafi, but the war itself destroyed the Libyan state and institutions = left the country in the hands of competing militias. Thus Libya is yet to recover from the anarchy triggered by the foreign intervention.
- In Syria also, with foreign intervention, the protests became an armed civil war. Soon, the country itself became a theatre of wars for global players.
- In Yemen, with foreign powers taking different sides, protests turned into a sectarian civil conflict.
- In Bahrain, Saudi Arabia made a direct military intervention, for the sake of its rulers = Protests were violently ended.
- Now, Sudan faces the heat of geopolitical intervention as well. As soon as the military council directly took power, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt offered support for the military.
What is the way forward?
As already mentioned, Tunisia is the only country where the Arab Spring protestors reached their ultimate goal i.e., democracy. And the country never returned to dictatorship again. This was made possible by framing a new constitution which effectively prevented the return of dictatorship, neither by Military nor anyone.
- Tunisia’s constitution puts limits on executive power, protects civil liberties and freedom of the press and guards due process of law.
- It is the only constitution in the Middle East to grant “freedom of conscience”.
- It included provisions for presidential term limits, elections, a constitutional court with the power to impeach, an independent judiciary, and independent constitutional bodies with responsibility for issues like combating corruption and human rights.
But the implementation of the constitution was not possible without the help of the National Dialogue Quartet (NDQ), an alternative, a peaceful political process which paved the way for a peaceful dialogue between the citizens. Thus NDQ was instrumental in establishing a constitutional system of government. NDQ even won the prestigious 2015 Nobel Peace Prize for its contribution.
Therefore, just like Tunisia, other Arab countries that have experienced similar protests and resultant fall of autocratic regime shall implement an alternative political and peaceful process in order to establish a democratic and constitutional form of government.