Political Rule in the Arab World
|Left to right: Nathan Brown, Marina Ottaway,
and Amr Hamzawy
A presentation on political reform, "Identity Patterns of Political
Reform in the Arab World," was held on November 14 in College Hall
Auditorium. The event was organized by the Political Studies Department
and the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs.
The panelists, here from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,
were Amr Hamzawy, the main speaker, Marina Ottaway, and Nathan J. Brown.
Hamzawy began by identifying the forms of political rule in the Arab world-semi-authoritarian
regimes, liberal autocracies, and authoritarian regimes. He analyzed each,
beginning with semi-authoritarian rule, and counted the reasons why these
societies have been unable to move towards liberalism. Semi-authoritarian
regimes, he explained, are "well entrenched in the social fabric;"
they have weak opposition groups that are faced with restrictions and
are unable to impose change in rule. He stated that Islamic movements
can enforce political reform, but are yet to take a strong stand against
Turning to authoritarian regimes, Hamzawy explained that "prospects
of change are low, due to the lack of institutions that aid pluralism,"
but he did not rule out the establishment of some degree of pluralism
in the future. As for liberal autocracies, Hamzawy said these "are
usually unstable countries," because of the "lack of established
rules of the political game."
Ottaway elaborated on the ability of Islamist movements in changing society
and attributed their growing popularity to their social nature. Brown,
meanwhile, stressed that constitutional reform is the key to change and
that the formation of political coalitions is the first step towards that
goal, but he added that obstacles such as government restrictions hinder
Hamzawy, an Egyptian political scientist, is a senior associate at the
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He earned his PhD from the
Free University of Berlin, focusing on democratization of the Arab world,
and taught at Cairo University. His publications include The Saudi Labyrinth:
Evaluating the Current Political Opening (2006) and Civil Society in the
Middle East (2003).