Democratic Transitions in Comparative Perspective
How can one think of the possibility of emergence of democracy in non-Western countries? Such an idea had been approached in pessimism for a long time in academia. This is because the conditions deemed indispensable for democratic development (such as high rates of urbanization and literacy) rarely existed in those countries. Thus, the concept “Western democracy” was considered an oxymoron, since, according to earlier scholars of democracy, only Western polities could meet the conditions/prerequisites for the genesis of democracy. Nevertheless, this long-held prophecy was challenged as non-Western countries demonstrated significant progress towards establishing a democratic rule, despite having “so-called” unfavorable conditions (such as religion or poor economic performance) to democratic development. Despite this global resurgence of democratic governance, the countries in the Middle East and North Africa were never able to develop a democratic rule, a situation that has long been explained by pointing at the “exceptional” characteristics (primarily Islam) inherent in the region. Yet, the events that began on December 17, 2010 in Tunisia opened up the possibility for the countries that had been long-ruled by autocrats to embark on a democratic transition. The uprisings that eventually unseated longtime authoritarian rulers (only occurred in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Libya) enabled divergent socio-political forces to become involved in transitional processes in the aftermath of regime breakdowns. However, only the first two cases had meaningful steps that were taken towards sustaining the transition. This research has been built on the argument that four key factors have played important roles in transitional processes of these two cases, namely Tunisia (the transition to a democratic governance) and Egypt (the restoration of a new form of authoritarianism): the formation of the state, pact-making compromises among revolutionary actors, moderation of religious parties, and civil society activism. In addition to explaining the divergence in these two countries’ transitional processes, this research has been written in response to the prolonged pessimism that the regimes in the region are destined to stay non-democratic.