« The Predicament of Political Legitimacy in the MENA region”, in Globalization in Retreat: Risks and Opportunities, TRT World Research Centre, 2020
In 1977, Michael C. Hudson claimed that the central problem of government in the Arab world was political illegitimacy. After 40 years, in early 2011, the onset of mass revolts in large parts of the MENA region have highlighted the key relevance of the question of political legitimacy in MENA countries. The ‘Arab Spring’ raised hopes that Arab states were finally on the verge of a democratic awakening, putting an end to decades of authoritarianism, and establishing a new and more legitimate political order reflecting the liberal aspirations of the people. However, nine years later, the region is experiencing a ‘counterrevolutionary’ wave and a comeback of authoritarianism, as well as state failure and state fragmentation. In parallel, non-state actors are emerging, such as ISIS, who question the political legitimacy of the Sykes-Picot order and highlight the failures and weaknesses of the artificially-created Arab States which were born on the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.
This paper looks at ‘The Predicament of Political Legitimacy in the MENA Region’ and attempts to explore the driving factors and the solutions to this issue. It seeks to answer the following questions: What is the status of the legitimacy of Arab governments following the Arab Spring and its aftermath? How is political legitimacy understood in a region comprising states and societies as divergent as Lebanon and Saudi Arabia? What methods are being deployed by the Arab regimes in order to solidify their rule?