Comparative politics may be defined in about one hundred ways but it simply refers to the systematic study of organizations, political institutions, processes and behavior beginning from the local, national level and going up to the international dimension. Six countries namely Egypt, Tunisia Yemen, Libya, Syria and Bahrain experienced political events in 2010 and partly early 2011, which have led to the beginning of a wave of proposed and actual electoral reforms across these Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) countries .This study is methodologically eclectic, rigorous and emphasizes on approaches in the history context. The main aim of this paper is to discuss the reasons that led citizens to mobilize for regime changes in some Arab countries but not (yet) in others.
There are similarities and differences between the revolutionaries. For an example, the generals in Egypt and Tunisia opted to back the uprising thus siding with rebels. The Tunisia president was as a result sent to exile after his general defied his orders to use lethal measures against citizens and consequently was defeated. However, Egypt’s decision to back the rebels was not as easy and straight as in Tunisia. In Libya and Yemen, the forces had divided loyalties and split them while in Syria the military used their guns and shot demonstrators.
There are theories or factors that explain the persistence of authoritarianism, which argue that revolutions in the politics of the six countries occurred as explosions mainly due to structural vulnerabilities of their political regimes. This state collapse is to be explained by the vulnerabilities in the structure in the regimes of certain states. The revolutions are caused by contests over state power which grows to an overwhelming extreme whereby authoritative rule of regimes has no option but to become stronger. This assumes they have to hold to power and defend it in a conquest agaist many local and international opponents. The uprisings that took place across the Arab world shall be discuss briefly below.
Tunisia was or still is ruled by a sultanistic regime led by Ben Ali, under despotism conditions that had great influence without any apparent term limits. The sultanistic regime of Ben Ali, just as other regimes, did rely on the loyalty of police and soldiers with an exacting immediacy which resulted from their unyielding authoritarianism coupled with constant coercing and threatening of those, whoever could had come their way. During the Arab uprisings in Tunisia, the soldiers backed the revolution. The wave of unrest had begun in this country in Mid December 2010. As soon as it seemed that the security and the police forces were overwhelmed by the demonstrators, Ben Ali released his presidential elite and gangs of thugs against the protesting citizens. The army chief of staff, General Rachid Ammar was ordered by the president to carry out deployment of troops to support the security detachments of the regime, which he rejected, and instead put his men between the protesters and the security units, a move that effectively saved the revolution consequently forcing Ben Ali to go into exile.
During the uprisings, Yemen Ali Abdullah Saleh was the president of Yemen. He became a victim of the political events, which had begun as minor events but sparked a popular feeling that exploded throughout the country. He also engaged rebels in a series confrontation that became increasingly violent. After the protests commenced, the president, Saleh hiked food subsidies, cut taxes and also pledged to increase the pay for civil-services. Saleh also commanded the security officers and the military to ensure the protestors were under suppression even if it meant the use of lethal force. NATO’s bombing became ferocious in campaign against Qadhafi; Tripoli became isolated from the international community; furthermore, the efforts of Gulf Cooperation Council removed Saleh out of power.
The uprising in Libya was both a high-profile and violent one. The regime tried to guarantee of the regular military either the use of threats dishing cash, removal of commanders who refused to turn their guns against rebels or through hostage of the unit commanders’ families. There was no radical change of power since the Transitional National Council (TNC) based in Benghazi is mainly constituted of people who are in the office as the representatives of the old regime. This provides an opportunity for non-democratic forces to undermine governments that have taken over from the authoritarian regimes. These divisions continued until Qaddafi decided to hire mercenaries from Europe, Latin America and Su-Saharani Africa, even though Muammar Qaddafi was never interested in implementing legislative elections.
The Syrians have a history of neither defending the ruling regime nor supporting the opposition; they rather become the recipients of whatever may result from the political environment at a given time. The civil war in Syria has become uglier making the country seem like an arena for a regional substitute. The opposition comprises of an assorted group of Salafis, peaceful protesters, Muslim Brothers, armed militants, soldiers who have defected, Kurds, foreign fighters, and tribal elements. The ancient culture, the state and the society have collapsed thus making the region prone to conflicts. Both the regime in power and the opposition are not stopped from contemplating anything to appear triumphant.
Bahrain has a very active opposition although it does not register on the scale regardless of how many opponents turn up to keep the government on toes. There is lack of an individual with the capacity to unify the nation, as well as come up with a new path that will change the political system. This approach assumes making leadership scanty since it exists in a form of a committee, where it is pronounced. The committees tend to strangely take up authority not granted by anyone with the west bestowing legitimacy, by providing exposure and respectability. The nation will then receive support and resources from the Gulf Arab states while the international organizations such as the UN and UNHCR give succor and validity.
The similarities among the revolutionary countries which include Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, and Libya are negligible. For example, based on Pre– and Post–Arab Revolt Election Systems, both Egypt and Bahrain had two-round system of electoral system. Bahraim retains this system after the revolution but Egypt develops a new parallel TRS (50%) AND PR (50%) whereas Tunisia and Yemen have Parallel block system although with varying percentages. Also, Egypt Tunisia and Yemen changed their electoral systems after revolution while others retained them. There are two similarities among stable countries which include Jordan, P.A., Lebanon, Morocco and Algeria; they include the common List PR electoral system in Algeria and Morocco, and both Jordan and P.A have reserved seats for Christians in parliament.
All revolt countries differ on the electoral systems before and after revolutions. They also have different parliament sizes; however, Egypt has reserved seats for women in parliament. Sizes of parliaments demonstrate decrease trends in Egypt and Tunisia while they remain the same in Bahain and Syria. Tunisia is the only country that seems to have done away with the old regime and assumed a full PR. Among the stable countries, Lebanon, Jordan, P.A., and Algeria and Morocco have different electoral systems, number of reserved seats for women in Morocco and Jordan and number of seats for Christians in the same countries. However, Lebanon has 128 confessional seats reserved. Finally, only Jordan has reserved seats for Chechen /Circassian and Bedouin.
One of the factors determining the development of the revolutionaries is corruption. A good number of investigations on corruption lead to an Egypt center on state owned companies sold to private sector and the money passed to Hosni Mubarak. Investigations are also underway on how the regimes of Tunisia and Egypt happened to pass anticorruption tests. Corruption has also taken roots in all the levels of Moroccan society. In both Egypt and Tunisia, there have been calls from both liberals and Islamists for those involved in corruption to be arrested. In Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt and Libya, there is a close association of between corruption and the exasperation of the public on their government. Corruption did not only provoke the uprisings, but also served as the biggest hindrance for the revolutions in achieving their sustainable development. This is because of the powerful interests which the ruling elites want to preserve.
The Arab uprisings that occurred in 2011, a reflection of similar political turmoil of 1848 refers to revolts that were witnessed as reactions of the populations that were alienated to the closed political and economic systems that are found in the Middle East. Individual countries revolutions disagreed because of the difference in the mineral wealth, sectarian divisions and military status. The uprisings will yield to lasting effects in the region. The main countries that underwent the revolution include Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria and Libya, which lead to the dethroning of their Sultanic presidents. This led to change of the regime through change of some legislation. There was the military, security forces and police, who either remained loyal to the end turning their guns against the citizens, or joined the rebels to remove the sitting presidents and their regimes. The factors that contribute to stability and change include corruption free regimes, reformed democracy and revived economy.