Discussion Papers

No.456 Trajectories and Outcomes of the‘Arab Spring’: Comparing Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria

by Housam Darwisheh

March 2014


Almost three years have passed since the ‘Arab Spring’ began in late 2010. In the major sites of popular uprisings, political conditions remain unsettled or violent. Despite similarities in their original opposition to authoritarian rule, the outcomes differed from country to country. In Tunisia and Egypt, processes of transiting from authoritarian rule produced contrasting consequences for democratic politics. Uprisings led to armed rebellion in Libya and Syria, but whereas Gaddafi was overthrown, Asad was not. What explains the different trajectories and outcomes of the Arab Spring? How were these shaped by the power structure and levels of social control of the pre-uprising regimes and their state institutions, on the one hand, and by the character of the societies and oppositional forces that rose against them? Comparing Tunisia with Egypt, and Libya with Syria, this paper discusses various factors that account for variations in the trajectories and outcomes of the Arab Spring, namely, the legacy of the previous regime, institutional and constitutional choices during “transition” from authoritarian rule, socioeconomic conditions, and the presence of absence of ethnic, sectarian and geographic diversity.

Keywords: institutions, transition, Islamists, Egypt, Tunisia, Syrian, Libya
JEL classification: N15, N17, P16

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