Authoritarianism is a form of government that entails total submission to authority with limited political freedom. According to Linz, there are two most essential subtypes of authoritarian regimes which are: traditional authoritarian regime and bureaucratic-military authoritarian regime (8). In traditional authoritarian government, the ruling party which in most cases is a single individual maintains power and authority through a series of conventional legality bound to the ruling authority via personal loyalties. In bureaucratic-military regime, military officers came up with a coalition which acts commonsensical within their bureaucratic limits. Authoritarianism in the Middle East is highly upheld and continues to persist despite the worldwide acceleration of democratization. The Middle East has continued to languish in authoritarianism system of government in the face of an increased number of democratic countries that have enormously improved political freedom, civil liberties and respect for human rights. Looking at the dictatorial pathways of Egypt and Turkey, it is evident that external influence, economic control, Islamic culture, and political instability are the factors behind the persistence of authoritarian rule in the Middle East.
To begin with, the cause of authoritarianism in the Middle East is external influence (Bellin 139). The Middle East region enjoys enormous international support thanks to its unique positioning in addition to its endowment in abundant minerals such as oil and gas. As cold war ended, authoritarian states of the Middle East benefited greatly from the enormous powers of both the eastern and western countries regarding international benefaction whose presence was still felt even after the end of the cold war. With the introduction of democracy by America, these states were quick to reject the new order by the formation of various alliances such as the Islamist radicals who have continually targeted Americans both in the United States and abroad with a few of revenge against the introduction of democracy. Policy makers in the Western region have continuously promoted authoritarianism in the Middle East with the belief that this regime would be suitable to withstand the Islamist threat and contain western security by guaranteeing regular resource supply to the western countries. This generosity by the West has significantly enabled this regime to hold on despite the end of the cold war and spread of democracy worldwide.
Egypt has received enormous funding and support from the West to meet its expenditure and to equip its military. In 2015, Egypt received $1.3 billion in annual military support from Obama's government with the aim of combating Islamic State militants, (Ackerman n.p.). Despite the end of cold war, it is evident that the west is still funding the Middle East countries with an objective of protecting its citizen from the dangerous Islamic Militants that has continually attacked the West for revenge not knowing that they are promoting authoritarian regime. In Syria, there has been extensive foreign involvement in the Syrian civil war. Most parties participating in this war that commenced in March 2011 have received enormous support from foreign powers notably the U.S. and Russia which has continued to cause devastating effects to the Syrian citizens. The external interference has predominantly destroyed democracy by promoting authoritarianism since the human right group cannot stand up and fight for the respect of human lives. That is enough to prove that the Western world through its continual interference to the Middle East region's affairs have promoted the persistence of authoritarianism regimes for their benefits.
Secondly, economic factors have broadly contributed to the persistence of dictatorship in the region. Although this region has extraordinarily valued and essential minerals such as oil and natural gas; it still faces unimaginable levels of poverty primarily due to the control of the economy by a small portion of the population in these countries. According to the United Nations Human Development Index, a fifth of the communities in these countries fall below the poverty line (Darwich 6). A small population of the elites owns oil monarchies but don't pay much or any tax and cannot be held accountable. Therefore, they generate enormous revenues from oil exports. The profits realized can buy loyalty from the populations to create unshakable authoritarian regimes backed up with a highly equipped loyal military to the administration. The rulers thus, establish structural bases that impair the process of democratization. They use their control over state institutions and economic approaches to consolidate their authoritarian reins by subjugating those who stand for democracy.
The same situation has been prevailing in Egypt, where the authoritarian regimes have exercised their control of the economy for their survival. In 1952 post-revolution period, the then authoritarian regime used popular policies to appoint the lower class of the society into power (Bolme 23). However, in 1990, the then leader Mubarak reduced populist policies for economic liberation thereby loss of the lower class support. To consolidate his authoritarian regime, Mubarak had to find a new constituency to support his hereditary authoritarianism regime (Salloukh 34). This later led to the development and persistence of authoritarian regimes in Egypt. In Syria, the lack of integration into the world economy which was predominantly capitalism led to the development and persistence of authoritarian regimes by lowering the economic and political expenses of forming a radical populist state.
Arguably, the Middle East culture which is mainly Islam has fundamentally promoted the persistence of authoritarian regimes in this region. Literature has the power to shape political legitimacy through its understanding. In this region, the Islamic and patriarchal traditional are incredibly exceptional, unique and vastly upheld by everyone thereby lack of rebellion against the significant authority. Islamic traditions do not and cannot tolerate political pluralization or democratic system of government as other cultures such as Catholicism uphold thereby the persistence of authoritarian regimes. The modern version of Islam requires that everyone participates in the struggle for good against evil, i.e., jihad in that way promoting a sense of unity within the members of the community to fight for a common goal of upholding authoritarianism as its seen as good and not evil. The Middle East promotes authoritarianism through it patriarchal and highly valued Islamic religion as it is thought to deliver the collective interest of the community.
Similarly, in late 2010, Egypt saw the uprising of Arab liberals who were to introduce a democratic order that would give way to a new form of political Islam. The Arab liberals were to unify the Muslim Brotherhood and introduce democracy in Egypt. This plan failed terribly in July 2013 when a military coup organized by the Islamist rule overthrew Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood who was the first democratically elected president. General Abdel Fattah El-Sisi who rose to power through Egypt's restored authoritarian state justified his acts saying that the coup saved Egypt from the collapse of Islamic rule which is greatly enhanced by traditions (Al-Arian). In Syria, the Muslim Brotherhood rose to challenge Syria's most powerful authoritarian regimes in the 1940s but were quickly turned down by the Islamist rule indicating that the Syrian people were a display of civilization heritage of Islam which promoted authoritarian regimes. The Muslim Brotherhood constant fight for political pluralism has been meeting by though resistance from the Islamic rule who uphold Islamic traditions in the 1940s, 1950s and the 1960s. Notably, in 1963, Hafiz Asad regime burned all Syrian political parties and was unwilling to allow the formation of another single party thereby promoting his authoritarianism regime (Wintrobe 11).
The fourth factor is the forced fragmentation of the Middle East into a collection of weak states which were small and unstable for democratic governance. Authoritarian was, therefore, the best option since the elites who had immersed vast wealth were forced to take political control to avert a communal conflict that would otherwise result in infighting over resources owned by the elites. Moreover, in a divided Middle East states, it is evident for intellects, colonels, and activist to unite and overcome disunity and discourage democracy by promoting popular Arab political movements such as political Islam and pan-Arabism in this small, weak states (Salloukh 37). Nonetheless, the widespread Arab political movements have gradually evolved to authoritarian form through a change of identity, authenticity, and unity. The elites eliminated democracy from these political movements with an objective of seeking legal rule and state power from the people through social identity and status but not through popular governments. This has continually led to the development and persistence of authoritarian government in the Middle East. In Egypt and Syria, the fragmenting regimes initiated by popular political movements stimulate the elites to militarize various state institutions to cause uncalled for violence within the states involving innocent citizens in an attempt to regain the authoritarian regime and respect from the population.
The other factor that makes it difficult to end totalitarianism in many Middle East countries is the permanent social structure which does not tolerate other forms of governance such as authority. There has been significant hostility to private ownership of property in most cases land due to the capitalist mindset of the population. The Middle East is predominantly a capitalist economy and exports its essential minerals and products worldwide thereby giving power to a small portion of the population such as landlords and tribal oil sheiks. The natural community made up mainly of poor, illiterate people is highly dependent on the state, and the elites for their livelihood and are not required to pay taxes. They are therefore unable to demand representation democratically thereby promoting the authoritarian regime of the elite. Moreover; the elites are unaccountable to the population as their administration depends on revenues arising from the export of minerals and products or foreign aid. The minimal interest from the elites led to further development of the suppressive governments in the region.
In Egypt, the neopatrimonial social structure remained unchanged, and instead of regular election, informal institutions have promoted the authoritarian regime by encouraging fulfillment of distinct dictatorial functions (Bolme 14).In Syria, the authoritarian regime is substantially upheld by the social structures that continually cause social conflict to seize power from the population and to empower their authoritarian regimes. Arguably, the social fabric of the Syrian governments has continuously neglected and ignored the centrality of essential institutions such as the judiciary and institutional change thereby promoting persistence of authoritarian regimes in the region.
Unfortunately, tough mobilizations against authoritarianism in these countries are sporadic, uncommon and readily suppressed in an unfolding event. In most Middle East countries, legislative elections are partly allowed but are thoroughly manipulated to favor the wealthy elites may not be interested in formulating policies suitable for the population. The elected legislators may, therefore, have minimal authority over implementation of policies, so they may not deliver on their agendas.
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