The Arab uprising is revolutionary and has affected the whole region. But it has not yet come to an end, and it will be more difficult to complete than the overthrow of the system in Eastern Europe; it will be bloodier and it will take longer.
So far, only three autocrats have actually been overthrown, but no state in the Arab world has been able to avoid entirely the pressure of this political movement. The movement began in Tunisia and Egypt, and it's these two states which have the best chances of developing into firmly established democracies.
The process will have not have the same effects throughout the region, and the differences between the various Arab countries may well become even clearer than they are now, at least initially – even if the citizens of the various countries have doubtlessly come closer as a result of the process.
The big task of building new, democratic political systems in the Middle East – or at least systems which are more representative, more responsible and better ruled – is sure to take a decade or even longer. And there are no guarantees. The process will also be a challenge for Europe, which, while it can't determine what will happen, will be able to influence events.
It would be a fair generalisation to say that the political and social situation in these states was marked by extremely poor government, with obvious abuses of human rights and human dignity, with corruption and increasing social inequality, and with discrimination against women and young people. And throughout the region, the countries are, or were, ruled by authoritarian, or at least undemocratic, political regimes.
By Volker Perthes; Translated by Michael Lawton
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