New Arab realities

Rami G. Khouri identifies five genuinely historic, new and meaningful developments in many of the Arab states in transformation, after 21 months of the Arab uprisings:

1. New legitimacies are coming into play, including legitimate governance structures, leaders and political actors, replacing their former counterparts that enjoyed incumbency but had long ago lost legitimacy. The transition from mass public humiliation to newfound legitimacy in national governance and the exercise of power is the single most important foundational change that is taking place in these Arab uprisings and national reconfigurations. These new legitimacies provide the foundation on which all other new developments occur, especially new national systems of governance and citizen rights.

2. New actors now participate in the process of contested politics that will shape national governments systems and policies at home and abroad; these include most notably revolutionary and other youth, individual citizens with the power to choose and change governments and presidents, Muslim Brothers and more hard-line Salafist Islamists (some of whom lead or participate in coalition governments), tribes (some with militias), secular-nationalist political parties, the armed forces that now engage in open rather than secret politics, the judiciary, civil society groups, and private sector interests.

We should note three important aspects of these new players. They all emanate from these Arab societies and did not parachute in from abroad, and they now operate in public and with populist democratic legitimacy, rather than working in the shadows as many of them did before, including the military, tribal forces, the private sector, and some Islamists. They reflect the important development that very few people are now excluded or marginalized, as was the case previously when the vast majority of citizens were shut out from the decision-making process. And, they evolve and change, as they share or seek power via the consent of the governed; they soften or harden positions and clarify their policies in response to citizen demands, and so they act in a political manner, reflecting their need to remain legitimate and credible in the eyes of their supporters and the public at large. [Continue reading…]

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