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After Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia, what comes next?

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"But how long can we wait?" asks Umm Karim, her black-and-white veil fastened tightly around her face.

"No matter how long we wait, it's going to be worth it," says Mr. Said. "You will be able to raise your kids to be engineers, not mechanics. We just have to unite."

As change sweeps the Middle East, the difficulties of converting revolution into a stable and fulfilling democracy are now clearer – and more daunting. The Arab world's so-called "pro-democracy" warriors that are toppling decrepit leaders every few weeks are faced with the same uncertainties that afflicted post-Soviet nations in eastern Europe in the 1990s, and the vibrant "color" revolutions of the following decade in Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine, and beyond.

Born in history's crucible of high expectations and unexpected popular empowerment, those examples have had mixed results – and were less afflicted by the huge income and education gaps and sectarian differences that help fuel the Middle East turmoil. The instruments of civil society, such as political parties, are weak at best, and transitional authorities are battling to grasp legitimacy.

The unprecedented demand for change here is further complicated by the lack of any previous narrative of Arab democracy.

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