Reflections on the Future of the Arab Spring

Reflections on the Future of the Arab Spring

Following the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and the developments still unfolding in the region, several questions arise: Is the Arab Spring over? Have we reached a turning point where no new revolutions are likely and where the remaining autocratic leaders will reaffirm their power monopolies? And what do post-revolutionary developments in Tunisia and Egypt suggest about the pace and prospects of their political opening and possible democratization?

In trying to answer these questions, the two waves of democratization in Eastern Europe and Eurasia provide useful analytical comparisons. The 1989 revolutions in the former communist bloc, as well as its second wave of electoral revolutions in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine in the early 2000s provide two possible paradigms of how a regional revolutionary wave can spread and unfold.

The revolutions in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Bulgaria and Romania present a group model of opening and democratization that was swift, largely nonviolent outside of Romania, widespread and significant for most of the countries in the region. The domino effect of regime change that began in 1989 took less than a year to complete, accelerated in confidence and speed as it unfolded and ultimately brought about the fall of communism throughout the region and beyond. The other, more recent case of a revolutionary wave was the post-communist electoral revolutions against a number of competitive authoritarian regimes in Eastern Europe. In this case, authoritarian post-communist leaders were ousted through a two-way process of "elections followed by revolutionary mobilization," a model first effectively implemented in Serbia in 2000 and then consciously replicated by the opposition forces in Georgia in 2003 and Ukraine in 2004.

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