Elite Change and New Social Mobilization in the Arab World
The current upheavals in the Arab world constitute a historic turning point in the relations between Arab societies and the autocratic systems that have shaped much of the region's political culture throughout the past decades. For the first time, political mobilization of large parts of the population in several countries has successfully challenged Arab regimes who were presumably well entrenched through stable elite coalitions and loyal security apparatuses. The upheavals in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Syria and Yemen also radiate out to countries where such movements are still only nascent or not (yet) visible at all. Still, even in countries such as Morocco or Jordan, leaders who hitherto appeared to be above questioning are under increasing pressure to legitimize their position vis-à-vis increasingly emancipated societies.
However, whether the change of leadership that took place in some countries actually constitutes regime change, and a comprehensive reconfiguration of the political elite, remains an open question. Are we simply witnessing a rotation within the existing political elites, or do we observe the involvement of new actors? Who exactly are these new players, will they be capable to exert sustainable influence, and how do they relate to the remains of the previous elite configuration still represented in the structures of power? Can political mobilization contribute to the emergence of an inclusive national identity, or will it prepare the ground for populism and radicalization, compounding existing conflicts? Do we observe significant changes to the normative framework of the political order, and how are they implemented? Are alternatives to the long-held equation between authoritarianism and stability created on the ground? Finally, in what way, if any, can external actors such as Germany and the EU provide constructive support for the transformation processes in the region?
To tackle these issues and the questions raised above, the project builds on research carried out at SWP in the years 2001-03 under the headline "Elite Change in the Arab world and Iran". It is located at the Research Division Near / Middle East and Africa, and shall provide analytical depth and policy guidance to the Transformation Partnerships between Germany and countries of the Near / Middle East that have been announced by the German government. The specific conditions found in the countries potentially covered by case studies (Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, Jordan, Morocco) provide a broad empirical basis for a sound conceptual understanding of the upheavals in the Arab world.
Project duration: 2012-2015
Project Director: Dr. Muriel Asseburg
Project Coordinator: Heiko Wimmen
Project Information Manager and Research Assistant: Monika Hasenmüller
Project Assistant: Barbara Heckl
The project is funded by the German Foreign Office in the framework of the transformation partnerships with the Arab World and the Robert Bosch Stiftung, and cooperates with the PhD grant programs of the Heinrich Böll Stiftung and the Hanns-Seidel-Stiftung.