The Arab Reform Initiative
The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research
////////////// Advisory Group
Abdelrahim Manar Slimi
Mohamad el Masri
April 2008 ////////////// Working Group
// The Report is based on field work conducted in the eight countries
surveyed: Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Saudi Arabia,
The original data by country Findings for the indicators by country in Annex 1)
Main Findings in Annex 2)
The distribution and weights within the index by country in Annex 3)
as well as the overall report are available on the website
// Opinions and findings in this report do not represent necessarily the views
of the member institutes and centers of the Arab Reform Initiative.
Awadh el Badi,
Khadija BenTaleb, Morocco
Fawzia Bentaleb, Morocco
Aziz El Dakakli, Morocco
Jihad Harb, Palestine
Shaima El Hattab, Egypt
Mustafa Kamel Essayed, Egypt
Karam Karam, Lebanon
Salima Lahbabi, Morocco
Nancy Mereeb, Lebanon
Jamil Moawad, Lebanon
Jihane el Rahmouni, Morocco
Ashraf Samir, Egypt
Fouad Salahi, Yemen
Yousri Taha, Egypt
Nadim Zaazaa, Lebanon
Abdelsalam Zesli, Morocco
Morocco // Translators: Ellen Khouri
//Design: Nour Sabbagh
THE STATE OF
REFORM IN THE
ARAB WORLD 2008
THE ARAB DEMOCRACY INDEX
Conclusions and Recommendations
*Arab Democracy Index Master Sheet
// About The Arab Refor m Initiative
ARI was founded in 2005 based on the prevailing consensus that the Arab world is in need
of reforming its social, political and economic systems and on the belief that the way chal-
lenges are met depends on who produces the knowledge and formulates the issues.
The Initiative’s priority is to mobilize Arab research capacities to generate knowledge by
those who are the prime targets of reform, nurture and promote realistic and home-grown
agendas for democratic reform, foster public debate and produce recommendations for
policy leaders. The Initiative promotes a comprehensive vision of reform that integrates
the interaction between the political, economic, societal and cultural spheres and raises
awareness in the Arab region about successful transitions to democracy in other parts of
With members and partners in more than 15 Arab countries, ARI holds a unique position
that allows it to draw on a broad network of scholars and activists to grasp the diversity of
situations among countries of the region and produce a combination of country specific
and comparative and transversal research.
The Arab reform Initiative is an independent organization with no ties to any specific coun-
try or any political agenda related to the region.
// How We Work
ARI’s work agenda and strategic orientations are decided by a Plenary composed of the
directors of its 15 institutional members. The ten Arab member institutes are spread across
the Mashreq, the Maghreb and the Gulf and work in partnership with four European and
one American centers.
Priority areas for work are selected according to the concerns and priorities of the region’s
key stakeholders and are designed to support local initiatives by citizens and policy lead-
The Initiative puts great care in protecting its independence, particularly in its fund-raising
policy, applying strict criteria such as the diversification of sources (Arab and interna-
tional) and the principle of “no strings attached” to donations.
Support is provided primarily by member institutes, private foundations and corporations
as well as individual contributions from Arab citizens concerned with reform.
The Arab Democracy Index is the first endeavor by an Arab institution to produce an audit of
the status of democratic transition in selected countries in the Arab World based on reading
and comparing key indicators.
A major gap that affects Arab societies is the absence (or scarcity at best) of reliable data
through which ordinary citizens can be informed of the realities of their country and its envi-
ronment. Arab citizens therefore build their vision of reality based either on information pro –
duced by foreign institutions when they know how to access it, or on what they intuitively be –
lieve to be the reality. Citizens therefore understand but are not able to measure change. They
tend to assess progress (or regression) from a narrow and subjective angle based on their
personal experience and have no means at their disposal to understand what differentiates
their country from a neighboring country.
With this report, the Arab Reform Initiative seeks to provide a specifically Arab evaluation of
change in the region and to play a leading role in the battle to win free access to information
as a basic right for citizens.
In most cases, assessing democratic change amounts to measuring if and how political sys –
tems are exiting from authoritarianism, if the opacity and lack of accountability of public insti –
tutions is reduced, if human rights violations are diminishing, or if censorship and other forms
of restrictions on freedoms are waning.
The 36 indicators built in this report (out of the initial 40 developed for the Democracy Index)
provide a tool to measure change over time and to compare situations among different coun –
tries. No point of departure is fixed as a reference against which to measure change. This
first report will serve as the reference against which change will be measured in the following
Indicators are fraught with drawbacks. They seem to put all countries in the same boat while
we know that these have different histories and political systems, and that the pace of change
is dependent on the characteristics of each society. But indicators are useful in that they set
standards based on universal criteria. Arab countries often plead their specificity and point
to the informal, traditional mechanisms of participatory governance they use, to argue that
Bassma Kodmani *
democratic practices in their political systems are more developed than they appear to be. Yet,
when it comes to economic and financial issues, they do not hesitate to undertake the neces –
sary legal and institutional reforms in order to respond to the universally agreed criteria of a
liberal economy and meet the requirements of the global market so as to attract foreign invest –
ments; or to express their readiness to sign a code of conduct introducing rules for greater
transparency on the use of Sovereign Wealth Funds.
Following this rationale, it is legitimate to evaluate political situations against internationally
accepted standards and norms.
Finally, ARI’s Arab Democracy Index falls short of capturing some complex phenomena which
are decisive to understand the political realities of Arab countries. The three qualitative ana –
lytical pieces included here go some way in shedding light on these realities. But transition
processes require multi-track monitoring and analysis of key issues such as the relationship
between the business community and the government as well as the role of the private sector
as a player in the reform process; the composition and evolution of the security sector and the
potential for reforming it; women’s visions of reform and their aspiration; or the changing strat –
egies of political movements and the experiences of dialogues and coalition-building between
various ideological currents which are underway in several countries.
These and other fields of reform are studied through specific research projects and policy
papers conducted by ARI’s network of researchers and published in its different publication
This report brought together a large team of Arab scholars, field workers, statisticians and poll –
ing experts from different countries who worked closely to implement a common methodol –
ogy, under the leadership of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research. ARI hopes
that the Arab Democracy Index will contribute to fostering an informed debate on whether and
how the Arab world is transitioning towards democracy, and on the major areas of concern for
*Executive Director, Arab Reform Initiative
*Director, Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey ResearchIs there a link between the absence of democracy on one hand, and social and economic underde
velopment with an increase in violence, on the other? The debate is ongoing. Some propositions
support this premise, while others oppose it based on the belief that democracy has a positive im –
pact that encourages “moderation” among groups sidelined from legal and political participation,
such as the Islamists. What is beyond doubt, however, is that the overwhelming majority of the Ar –
abs want democratic systems that allow them to hold their rulers accountable, actively participate
in the decision-making process, and bring about change. Our interest in gauging the democratic
transition process emanates from our conviction that any failure to respond to the people’s will
would be tantamount to marginalising them, and weakening their ability to deal with the internal
and external challenges that face the Arab world.
In order for us to closely monitor the democratic transition process, and actively contribute to its
rapid progress in the Arab world, based on accurate and diligently gathered data, we should use an
objective and sensible mechanism to measure this progress, its significance and its sustainability.
This report monitors the status of democracy in eight Arab countries, namely Egypt, Morocco,
Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Algeria and Yemen, by gathering and analysing around
forty major indicators relevant to the democratisation process. Many of the main indicators have
sub-indicators covering related political, economic and social fields.
Different endeavours compare international and regional data, using various methodologies. A
report published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in 2004, mentions
60 different indices, projects or reports based on gathering quantitative data relevant to political
change. The most important of these is the “Human Development Report”, which UNDP has
been publishing, since 1990, on education, health and per capita income. Likewise, Transparency
International has been publishing, since 1995, a report regarding the status of corruption, based on
public opinion surveys, data and the general impressions of businesspersons and analysts in around
180 countries. These two reports, however, do not directly address the political dimension of de –
mocratisation, as does the comprehensive report, “World Governance Indicators”, published by the
World Bank, that covers over two hundred countries and regions. It gauges governance from six
different angles: political participation, political stability, government performance, the rule of law,
organisational framework and corruption. In a similar vein, the Freedom House report measures
change related to accountability, civil freedoms, the rule of law and fighting corruption. Freedom House defines “freedom” based on two criteria: political rights and civil freedoms, and
gives each individual country a score ranging from 1 (the best), to 7 (the worst, or “not free at all”).
Another report by the German Bertelsmann Foundation addresses democratic conditions (politi-
cal participation, the rule of law, stability of democratic institutions, ability of the state to spread its
control over its entire territory and political and social complementarity), as well as conditions of the
market and the administration. Finally, the Global Integrity Report classifies countries based on
a variety of indicators, including civil society, the media, elections, government accountability, the
administration and civil service, monitoring efforts and the performance of organizations, fighting
corruption and the rule of law.
Despite the fact that some of these reports, like the World Bank’s indicators, provide a large col
lection of data, many of them are based on non-objective mechanisms, like group, individual or
public impressions, or depend on examining procedural political processes, like reviewing laws and
constitutions. On the other hand, the Arab Democracy Index goes further than the above reports
in two aspects: it takes into consideration both impressions and patterns of behaviour, and measures
their impact on the citizens’ daily lives. It revolves round the centrality of the notion of citizenship,
instead of political authority, and thus takes limited steps towards the social and economic impact
that changes in the country’s political system have on people’s lives.
Data gathered for the Arab Democracy Index covers three different dimensions: the constitutional
or legal angle, public opinion and impressions, and actual behaviour patterns of regimes in power,
based on their performance on the ground, and documented reports regarding the way central
authorities exercise their power. Measurement is based, therefore, on monitoring performance and
behaviour rather than just examining intentions and theoretical criteria, like legislation and rules.
Though intentions can be good, the performance could be poor; this is why we focus on the means
and practices associated with democratic transition, and on public opinion’s assessment of these
Researcher find it difficult to generate documented results based on available international mecha –
nisms, not just due to their different methodologies and principal reliance on impressions, but also
because of the contradictions inherent in some of their findings. For example, the Human Develop –
ment Report of 2007-2008 places Saudi Arabia at the top of the eight Arab countries covered by
this study, and Morocco and Yemen at the bottom of the same list. Transparency International’s
2007 report places Jordan at the top of the list, followed by Morocco, then Saudi Arabia, with Yem –
en again at the bottom. Freedom House’s report, for its part, divides the eight countries into two
groups: those that are partially free, namely Jordan, Morocco, Lebanon, Palestine and Yemen, and
those that are not free, i.e., Algeria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The World Bank report gave Jordan,
Morocco and Saudi Arabia a better score than Lebanon, Egypt and Algeria, and placed Yemen
and Palestine at the bottom of the list. The Bertelsmann Foundation’s report gave Lebanon the best
position, followed by Jordan, and placed Saudi Arabia and Yemen at the bottom of the list; finally,
the Global Integrity Report for 2007 puts Jordan at the top, and Lebanon at the bottom of the list.
The Arab Democracy Index measures the level of democratic transition based on four different
values or principles: strong and accountable public institutions, respect for rights and freedoms, the
rule of law, and equality and social justice. We are aware, however, that we cannot directly measure
these principles and values, which is why we developed measurable indicators for each of the above
values. For example, the rule of law relies on eight major indicators, including the extent of the judi-
ciary’s independence based on constitutional and legal texts, and the availability of various means
by which citizens can hold the authorities accountable, such as alternate legal systems like state
security courts; these are two indicators on which precise empirical data can be easily gathered.
Quantitative data enable us to understand developments pertaining to a particular value. As for the
final numerical score given to each country individually, the aim is not to pass judgement on that
particular country, but to allow the reader to compare its performance to others.
This annual report is organized in four sections: Methodology, Findings, Analytical Studies, and
Conclusion and Recommendations. The Methodology looks at the reasons why we chose this par-
ticular set of eight countries analysed in this report, and describes various indicators, their weight
and considerations behind their selection, as well as various sources of information we relied on to
obtain the data used in this Index. It addresses the concept of democracy and the reasons why we
focussed on the transition process; reviews various classifications used in the index, like those of the
means and practices, and the principles or values of democratic transition, and describes all indica –
tors related to them. Finally, the Methodology explains how best to read this Index, and reminds
the reader that the aim behind giving each country a score is not to simply describe conditions at
present, but to serve as a mechanism for comparison that allows the measurement of change over
The second part looks at the detailed and comprehensive results of the Index, values and indica –
tors, and addresses each country’s results separately. The findings show that all eight countries are
at the embryonic stages of democratic transition. While the Index’s overall score stood at 508, the
most advanced in this regard ( Jordan) received 609 points, and the least advanced (Saudi Arabia),
The third part includes three analytical contributions regarding the transition to democracy, using
the index’s findings. Basma Kodmani’s paper considers the progress already achieved in the field
of reforms in the Arab world, and the nature of the challenges at play, illustrating her text with ex –
amples from Egypt, in particular. One of the problems that reforms face, she notes, is that its prime
mover as well as prime target are one and the same, namely a ruling elite that allows only a lim –
ited amount of formal constitutional, legal and other formal reforms which it offsets by constrain –
ing practices. The local and international focus on terrorism-related issues, she says, has weighed
heavily on the democratic reform process, and economic pressures have rearranged the citizens’
priorities, shifting their attention away from their rights. Rami Khouri’s paper focuses on the Arab
Mashreq, and uses examples from Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria. Khouri believes that al –
though there were a number of non-political reforms in the past few years, the democratic aspect
of reform was marginalised in the process. He believes that the main impediments are the armed
conflicts in the region, the sharp ideological contradictions inherent in them, political competition,
complications resulting from foreign interventions, the ruling elites’ insistence on holding onto their
privileges, and their opposition to genuine and serious reforms. For his part, Abdallah Saaf uses
similar examples to distinguish styles of reform that are available across the Arab world, and makes
reference to the progress achieved in the legislative field, countered by entirely contradictory prac-
tices on the ground. Saaf also refers to progress achieved in the economic field, which nevertheless
fails to have a positive impact on the political reform process. He expects some limited progress in
the future coming from within the regimes in power, as a result of local and foreign pressure, but
without rising to the level of a democratic transition.
The fourth part contains a list of general and specific recommendations. While general recommen –
dations are based on the Index’s overall results, the specific ones rely on the results of individual
countries. The report includes four annexes containing a description of the indicators and the man –
ner of their calculation, detailed results from each country’s indicators, the Index’s main results and
values, and figures showing the results of each country’s indicators, values and principles. There is no doubt that the quantitative methodology used in this report poses a number of problems,
for there are significant and indicative aspects of the political process that are difficult to adequately
quantify or measure, and Bassma Kodmani’s paper refers to some of them. Some might also think
that the importance of the different indicators used varies considerably, for not everything that can
be counted and measured is actually worth counting and measuring. Another problem relates to the
significance of the final scores awarded to each country, and to the Index as a whole. It is only nor
mal for a measurement to start at a given point, though this point’s nature is not all that significant
since what is important for us is where this point actually stands in comparison to other countries,
and how much there was progress or regression from it the following years. This comparison with
other countries, however, poses another problem since it raises a question about the wisdom of clas –
sifying countries whose political and social systems are fundamentally very different. Since there is
no comprehensive answer to this question, we tried in this report to compensate for this shortcom –
ing by including good quality analytical articles.
It is important to note that this document is the outcome of a collaborative effort among a group of
Arab research centres and universities, most of which are members of the Arab Reform Initiative.
These centres collected initial data in their respective countries, and the Palestinian Centre for
Policy and Survey Research, in Palestine, calculated each country’s indicator scores based on this
initial data. Although all participant centres adhered to a common methodology, in some countries
a small number of indicator scores relied on the researcher’s estimates, on those of the Centre’s
main researchers, or on the collective evaluation of the main working group. Similarly, certain cen –
tres were unable to collect sufficient data regarding a number of indicators, specifically four out of
a total of forty, which forced us to omit them from this year’s index. The fact that there were many
data gathering centres, and discrepancies in the estimates and impressions, acted as a restraining
element due to the nature of collective work. Finally, the working group had to eliminate Kuwait
from this year’s index due to the lack of sufficient information on a large number of indicators, al –
though the Kuwaiti working group went to extraordinary lengths to access the missing data.
The Arab Democracy Index, which is at the core of the
Arab Reform Initiative’s Annual Report, monitors various
indicators that evaluate issues relevant to the nature and
performance of political systems. It reflects the extent and
depth of changes that, together, could indicate the level
of democratic transition in the Arab world. In this initial
stage, the Index covers eight Arab countries, and there is
every expectation that this number will gradually increase
to include all countries in the Arab world.
available methods of collecting and measuring information in different countries. The aim was
also to allow for wide differences in the surveyed countries’ size, resources, history and respective
This Index has its own advantages, restrictions and limitations; it shows the status of democratic
transition in the Arab world, and a number of important relevant details, in a quick and coordinat-
ed manner. It also gives the reader the opportunity to easily monitor change on a yearly basis, and
to pinpoint obvious areas of political change or stagnation. The ability of the chosen indicators to
monitor the process of democratic transition is no doubt limited, and a numerical score, to a certain
degree, simplifies it and takes it out of context.
Many Indices monitor economic, social and political conditions. For example, Average per Capita
Income is used to classify a given country on the economic development scale, in comparison with
others. Similarly, the Average Price Index is used to measure the general increase in prices, and, by
extension, the actual value of wages. In the same vein, the Democracy Index is an attempt to find a
quantitative (or numerical) expression for the pace and direction of democratic transition, as part of
the process of change in a given political system. However, since the nature of political transition is
different from economic or other transformations, this Index relies on a larger number and variety
of indicators to gauge democratic change. Different indicators use different measurement methods
to ascertain whether conditions, in general, reflect the success or failure of a transition process.
This Index does not try, for example, to answer whether democracy is liable to encourage political
pluralism or not; instead, it presupposes that one of the reasons for seeking democracy is precisely
to encourage pluralism. Consequently, it sees any increase in the number of political parties as a
positive sign of democratic transition. However, despite its importance, this Index does not at all
examine the degree, seriousness, status and nature of the political parties’ participation in political
life, or the nature of these parties’ programmes, etc. It presupposes that if pluralism were effective
in encouraging democracy, it would have an impact on political participation, and on the political
authorities’ performance, e.g., by increasing their accountability level. Similar constraints apply to
most of the indicators used; indicators relevant to education examine the ratio of educated individu –
als and the number of years they spend in academia, rather than the quality of their education. Nor
does the indicator relevant to social security examine its effectiveness, or the safety net it provides.
Various indicators address issues relevant to legal structures, social conditions, freedoms, the econ –
omy, the authorities’ performance, institutional performance and other issues whose conditions,
or quality, are supposed to change as the result of democratic transition. Indicators examine these
issues from the point of view of relevant preparations underway (policies and legislation), and the
level of practices and their outcome. The Index is based on the premise that a positive democratic
transition is the outcome of a certain political will; therefore the lack of such a transition (obstructed
or absent) means that either this will does not exist, or has not been actualised.
The Index allows a numerical reading of forty different indicators chosen to reflect the democratic
pulse of the Arab region, based on the prevailing democracy paradigm. Most indicators examine
how close a country stands to the liberal democratic model of the nation state. This does not reflect
the political or ideological preferences of those who designed the Index, or diminish the impor
tance of theories that criticise this particular paradigm. It was rather our desire to work within
the context of a common denominator that made us opt for this particular choice. Thus, since this
liberal paradigm, associated with the classical vision of the nation state, above all has to do with the
procedural aspects of democracy, and therefore reflects a minimum degree of the democratisation
process we are hoping for, this paradigm becomes the closest option to the common denominator
we seek. The forty indicators gauge four major values and principles relevant to the democratisa –
tion process: strong and accountable public institutions, respect for rights and freedoms, the rule of
law, and equality and social justice. Neither does the Index’s methodology overplay the use of the
prevalent liberal paradigm; it reinforces the Index with indicators relevant to equality, justice and
Data relevant to the forty indicators is collected annually. This means that a continuous review and
calculation of these indicators enables the Index to closely monitor changes in the Arab political
systems, from the point of view of their proximity to the above-mentioned democratic model.
This initial stage covers, as much as possible 1
, the period from early July 2006 to the end of June
2007, and includes Jordan, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco and Ye –
men. Only thirty-six out of the forty indicators were used, due to certain difficulties in gathering
documented information relevant to the four remaining indicators 2
. This led the working group to
suspend them in this year’s report, though it will continue to look for ways to ensure their coverage
in subsequent undertakings. Moreover, two out of four sections 3
of indicators relevant to education
were suspended for similar reasons.
This Index is an extension of the experience in Palestine of the Palestinian Centre for Research and
Studies, and the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research, for the preparation and publi-
cation of “the Palestine Democracy Index” 4
. However, the Arab Index’s indicators were amended
in a manner that better suits the comparative nature of this report, and more in conformity with Methodolog y
Selecting countries for the survey Selecting countries for the survey
We faced a number of practical and objective limitations in deciding which countries to cover in
the survey. In principle, all the Arab countries were candidates; nevertheless, and despite various
resource and time limitations, these limitations were not a deciding factor since other factors inter –
vened to resolve the issue, one way or another. Among these were the availability of local working
groups ready and able to start working immediately on collecting and evaluating data, whether
opinion surveys could be conducted in the concerned country, and whether access to information
was relatively easy.
Indicators of the Arab Democracy IndexIndicators of the Arab Democracy Index
After much debate, a re-examination of relevant texts, and a study of several examples from around
the world regarding the measurement of democracy and democratisation, forty indicators were se –
lected for this Index
5. Each has its own set of detailed sub-indicators and a specific way of calculat –
ing respective scores6, based on the information available and the particular situation it is supposed
The selected indicators have to do with daily political, economic and social issues, and reflect the
entire democratic decision-making process This starts from the tendency and desire to take part in
the decision-making process, to the decision-making process itself, its implementation, guarantees
for its continued implementation, and making the necessary adjustments for it to happen.
All the Index’s indicators were given equal weight
7, meaning that each indicator contributed 2.5%
to the Index (2.8% in this year’s survey, due to the suspension of four indicators). The process of
deciding on the respective weights, or the decision to give all indicators equal weight, was a decision
of the working group that carries within it a largely arbitrary judgment regarding the importance
of various constituent elements of a democratic system. Some might choose to re-examine the In –
dex by giving each indicator the weight he or she thinks it deserves. The importance of this Index
lies in its ability to compare results from consecutive years, and monitor the ongoing process of
change. What is important here for any diligent researcher is not how the image is formed, but how
it changes and transforms as the result of changes in the system’s attributes and performance.
It is rather difficult to rationally, and objectively, delineate the specific weight of countries going
through different stages of development, since each focuses on an area of tangible change within the
democratisation process. While some countries are at the stage of modernising and democratising
their political system’s constitutional and legal structures, others are promoting political participa –
tion, strengthening their economy or liberalising it.
The experience of the past two decades shows that there is no single formula for democratic transi-
tion, regardless whether it is on a positive or negative course. Countries with different socio-eco –
nomic structures certainly need to focus on different aspects of the democratic transition process.
For some countries, it is a matter of institution building, for others it is reforming them; for some it is
establishing a solid basis for elements of prosperity to take root, in others, it is expanding it; in others
yet, it is re-examining the entire legal structure, liberalising the economy, and so on.
The forty indicators are the constituent elements of the Arab Democracy Index; each of them ex -amines a given domain that reflects the process of democratic transition in the Arab world, and
quantitatively reflects the examined data.
The indicators are divided into groups, based on different classifications; there are two kinds of
indicators: the tools (means) and the practices (results) on the one hand, and political, economic and
social indicators, on the other. There are also indicators related to internal policies, foreign policies;
to basic values and principles of a democratic system, i.e., strong and accountable public institu
tions, respect for rights and freedoms, the rule of law, and equality and social justice.
These indicators were chosen based on several considerations, the most important being the need
to cover all the aspects listed above. Other important considerations were the degree of these indi-
cators’ reflection of democracy as a governance system and as a regulator of the political regime’s
relationship with society, whether they reflect the level of the state and its institutions’ respect for hu –
man rights, or their ability to project an image of relationships within civil society’s institutions, as –
sociations and organisations. A different set of considerations has to do with whether the indicators
could be measured repeatedly, and at specific time intervals, (usually on an annual basis), without
neglecting those relevant to phenomena like elections that require a longer time frame to change,
yet are key elements in the democratic transition process. These indicators were selected after a long
process of reflection and testing, leading the team to a reasonable level of confidence that they were
collectively capable of monitoring the course and pace of a democratic transition.
Though we did mention a general tendency in the Index towards procedural matters and a focus
on political indicators, the team’s awareness of the importance of the socio-economic aspects of
democratisation prompted it to include a number of additional indicators. These are relevant to the
citizens’ interest in using and promoting democratic tools to ensure their participation in a decision
making process that goes beyond the mere choice of leaders. This latter set of indicators examines
the true extent of genuine democratic practices, whether they are restricted to the elite, and if
they risk becoming another tool for legitimising tyranny and the poor distribution of the country’s
wealth. The set of concomitant indicators, classified under the principles (values) of equality and
social justice, constitutes the main component in measuring the nature of a democratic transition
that is not limited to procedural matters.
We believe that this Index could interest observers with different backgrounds and concerns. It
could also turn public opinion’s attention to areas of success and failure regarding different aspects
of the democratic transition process. It could provide politicians who desire to introduce change,
with precious information as to the Index’s ability to pinpoint areas of weakness in policy imple –
mentation, areas that need further development or those where policies have to be amended. It is
also important for legislators who aspire to hold the executive authority accountable, as far as its
performance in democratising the community’s life is concerned. It could also reveal areas that still
need legal or constitutional reform, and point out domains that researchers should further explore
to uncover reasons behind successes or failures to democratise.
We cannot claim that the eight countries covered by the first survey are a representative sample of
the Arab world. Nevertheless, the chosen sample does include countries from the Arab Mashreq
(including the Arab Gulf region) and Maghreb, rich and poor countries, countries with large and
relatively small populations, two oil producing countries, and ones witnessing more politically tur
bulent times than others. For these reasons, the research team believes that the sample surveyed for
this report can give a balanced impression of the Arab world. Of course, this impression could be
somewhat optimistic, since the availability of information and the relative ease of access to it, reflect
to a certain extent what the survey seeks to examine. The reader should therefore be aware of the
high probability of a structural bias in the Index, due to the mechanism it is based on. One could
say that this rewards the sampling bias had the research team not been conscious of the fact that
the sample is not representative.
Sources of information Sources of information
Given the wide variety of indicator and the wide range of issues they portray, different ways were
used to access data necessary for crafting the indicators and allocating scores to individual domains.
The research group tried, as much as possible, to rely on basic sources of information, and was care –
ful, whenever possible, to obtain the necessary information from independent and varied sources.
The Index also paid special attention to public opinion, and allocated a quarter of the indicators to
it. In cases where precise information could not be obtained, or the results reached did not provide a
16 17 The Index’s classificationsThe Index’s classifications
The concept of democracy and the democratic transition process
The concept of democracy and the democratic transition process
The Arab Democracy Index is a numerical projection of the democratic transition process. By
transition process, we mean a series of changes in the characteristics, nature and performance of
a political system during a period of transition, which is by nature imprecise, suffers from periodic
bouts of regression and is not guaranteed against failure. Measuring the transition process forces
us to concentrate on indicators that clearly portray changes in the political system and its elements.
It also compels us to stay away, as much as possible, from other important elements and indicators
that project the depth, effectiveness and sustainability of an existing democratic system, but do not
necessarily play a key role in the transition from an undemocratic to a democratic system.
The kind of democracy we seek and are trying to gauge is, for the purposes of this Index, a mode
of organization of political life based on the premise that people are the source of power, and that a
political system should reflect the popular will, and ensure justice and equality through participa –
tion in the decision-making process. Democracy is, therefore, a mean, rather than an end in itself.
Democracy at the core is also not a way of thinking, a belief, a set of values, or a cultural trend, but a
mechanism for participation in the decision-making process, and one that ensures that the decisions
taken reflect the will of the people.
Gauging democracy in a given country means measuring the level of the people’s effective partici-
pation in making decisions that affect their lives, in a democratic way. It also means the presence of
various ways and means that allow this participation to take place, and the degree to which they are
institutionalised, sustainable and available for the people to use. This can be measured using a set
of indicators that cover available mechanisms for participation in the decision-making process, the
ability to amend them and object to them, and the level of public satisfaction with decisions made
(political or other). This reflects, on the one hand, the extent of the people’s involvement in decision-
making and, on the other, how seriously a decision is implemented (relative to the intention when
it was made). It also reflects the extent of the people’s effective participation in, and impact on, the
decision-making process, and how encouraged thy are to participate and use available mechanisms,
as well as the presence of guarantees regarding the consequences of free participation. Moreover,
it shows how deeply institutionalised are all the above mechanisms, their implementation, relevant
practices and sustainability within the system, and society’s ability to shoulder the ensuing burden.
This report is based on the premise that democracy (in its general sense) is not a tactical position,
but one that reflects a certain socio-political- economic tendency embodied in the political system. The Index’s data have a numerical value that reflects the average value of indicators in each in
dividual country, group of countries, or all Arab countries together, from which data is collected.
However, it is worth looking at specific classifications by grouping indicators into sets that reflect the
transition process, from one angle or another of aspects reflected by these indicators, as mentioned
The first classification divides the indicator into two kinds: those that reflect the means through
which democratic transition is taking place (indicators 1-10), and those that reflect the practices
associated with it (indicators 11-40). As Figure 1-1 shows, indicators relative to the means make up
one quarter of indicators, while those relative to practices make up the remaining three-quarters
(28% and 72% respectively, in the present survey, due to the suspension of four indicators, out of
thirty, related to practices). It has its own institutional, contractual (constitutional), procedural (administrative) and value-re –
lated manifestations, the most important among which are the unequivocal respect for the rule of
law, upholding human rights and preserving man’s dignity, and honouring the concept of citizen –
ship. Seen from this angle, democracy is the people’s option. However, because this option is in
contradiction with the interests of certain groups, particular institutions are necessary to formulate
specific arrangements, measures and legislation that lay the foundations of democracy, guarantee
its sustainability and deter anyone from causing it harm. Among these arrangements and measures
are separation and independence of powers (executive, legislative and judicial), exercise of power
through regular and fair elections (i.e. admitting the legitimacy of competition between forces and
parties with different agendas on governance), and enacting legislation that ensures freedom of
expression, organisation, assembly, press and the right to strike (i.e., to participate in public life).
Democracy is not only a question of implementing the principles of practicing power through regu –
lar elections, respect for party and intellectual pluralism and upholding minority rights, but goes
well beyond that to enshrining basic individual rights, like the right to work, movement, shelter,
education, health and social care, regardless of one’s ethnicity, religion, gender or colour. The In –
dex’s indicators were designed in such a way as to take all of the above into consideration, as much
as possible, and look ahead to including other dimensions, like women’s participation in public life,
the real conditions under which they live and the extent to which the legal infrastructure promotes
their equality with men.
clear-cut result (due to contradictory information, or to obvious disparities between official data and
data from the field), the team resorted to the evaluation of experts from the countries concerned.
Sources of information used in the Index come from government or non-government sources.
Government sources include ministries, intelligence and security agencies, central statistics depart
ments, parliamentary committees, parliamentary secretariats, higher judicial councils and court ad –
ministrations, as each case required. Non-government sources included local government centres,
like regional, tribal and municipal councils; non-governmental organisations, unions and relevant
professional associations, local newspapers and the internet. As for sources relevant to the citizen’s
impressions and assessment of the situation, opinion surveys, especially designed for the Index, were
carried out by technically qualified teams, based on a representative random sampling system, and
margins of error that never exceed 5%, despite differing margins from one country to the other.
Figure 2-1: The Index’s Second Classification based on the Basic Principles of a Democratic System
Figure 1-1: The Index’s First Classification Based on the Kind of Indicator (Practices and Means)
*Variation is due to the suspension of four indicators in the current survey
Reading the index Reading the index
The Index does not presuppose the existence of a democratic standard based on which measure-
ments can be made. This is why the Index relies on a quantitative estimate of the condition of
democracy in the Arab world, in the period covered by the annual report. However, despite the
fact that this estimate gives an impression of democratic conditions in those Arab countries where
surveys were conducted, this Index does not make value judgements on them, and should not be
used as such. Although the Index allows comparisons between various Arab countries, these com-
parisons remain confined to contrasting indicators that constitute this Index’s elements. The Index
unifies the measurement period, indicators and calculation systems, and uses coordinated infor-
mation-gathering methods, which guarantees uniformly high credibility of the information used.
Consequently, the Index’s effectiveness is linked to the ability to manage the research process in a
manner that succeeded, as much as possible, in maintaining a level of consistency among research
groups in different countries, and ensuring that the information gathered is equally consistent in all
aspects. The main research tool here is information gathering; and the more research groups are
successful in collecting and documenting necessary information, with a certain degree of consist-
ency, the smaller the margin of error becomes, and the fewer distortions occur in drawing a picture
of different countries’ indicators in a single survey.
It is worth repeating that the Index does not reflect democratic conditions as such, but the demo-
cratic transition process, by quantitatively measuring and reporting on the condition of democracy
at several points in time, whereby each point represents a given time period. Once a year, the Index
freezes in time an instant in a given country’s life, which means that we have to see the result as a
static, rather than a moving, picture. We should also consider that drawing this picture year after
year will enable us, over time, to construct a cinematic image, and that each indicator in the Index
is a single frame in a picture that portrays an instant in the life of an Arab country.
Indicators relevant to the means reflect those aspects of the democratic transition according to
which constitutional, legal and institutional principles that lay the legal foundations for guaranteed
democratic processes are formulated. These indicators therefore serve to ascertain, for example,
whether constitutional texts highlight the importance of the separation of powers, and include legal
guarantees for the freedom of the press, the right to form and join political parties, etc. Further-
more, indicators relative to means are confined to the political aspects, since they reflect the mini-
mum amount of political will necessary to undergo a democratic transition.
As to indicators relevant to practices, they reflect the implementation of constitutional provisions,
and rule and regulations, on the ground. They measure, for example, violations of constitutional
principles and laws that harm the balance of power among the three branches of government, or
restrict freedoms. They also measure the extent to which the government is dependent on foreign
funding, or on foreign markets, to an extent that it has become more responsive to foreign pressure
than to domestic public opinion. Indicators that reflect the public’s impressions, which the Index
bases on public opinion surveys, are among the indicators that reflect practices. They monitor,
among other, issues like whether people are able to criticise the authorities, and whether they feel
corruption is widespread in the public sector. Moreover, among the indicators that reflect practices
are a number of indicators that examine social issues, such as education, health, social security, and
As shown in Figure 2-1, the second classification divides the Index into four groups reflecting the
basic values and principles of democratic transition:
Strong and accountable public institutions (13 indicators: 1-3; 11-20)
8; cover issues like people’s
evaluation of public institutions’ performance, of the rule of law and whether the public feels per-
Respect for rights and freedoms (13 indicators: 4-7; 21-29)
9; cover issues like licensing new political
parties, appearance of opposition political party views in the press, and the people’s assessment of
The rule of law (7 indicators: 7, 8, 25-29)
10; cover issues such as independence of the judiciary, and
how people’s complaints against governmental authorities are dealt with.
Equality and social justice (7 indicators: 9, 30-35); cover issues such as government spending on
health and education compared with security and defence, and the ratio of women in the labour
market. Figure 2-1 below shows the two-thirds share, out of the total Index, of indicators relevant to public
institutions and respect for rights and freedoms, and the 18% share of those relevant to the rule of
law, equality and social justice. In the present survey, the share of the indicators relevant to respect
for rights and freedoms remained unchanged, while the share of those on equality and social justice,
the rule of law and public institutions was 19%, 17%, and 31%, respectively.
The third level involves reading each indicator separately; this allows the reader to monitor changes
in all forty indicators (36 in the present survey), either for the surveyed countries as a whole, or for
each country separately.
The Index comprises information that allows the reader to view data on both the regional and
However, we do not advise the reader to look at this Index, and its indicators, only from the quan-
titative angle. Democracy and democratisation symbolise a qualitative condition that reflects, re-
invents and contributes to the development of a malleable and changeable socio-political and eco-
nomic system. What these indicators present together (the Arab Democracy Index), in a particular
domain (a particular kind or one of the elements or values), or in one specific category (a given
indicator), is a quantitative (numerical) expression of an instant frozen in time, to provide qualita-
tive values over a given time period. We advise the reader to view this data against a backdrop of
dependency, vulnerability and anxiety regarding the future, three general conditions that Arab so-
cieties currently suffer from. Therefore, we have to be wary of any attempt to reduce the democratic
transition process to a mere number, or a set of quantitative variables. Instead, we should deal with
indicators and classifications, as well as the Index itself, as tools to monitor change (both negative
and positive) in the condition of democracy, and thus intervene in formulating policies and guide-
lines that serve the democratic transition, and help entrench democracy.
Many precautions are necessary when reading the Index and interpreting its findings. These in-
clude a margin of error that could be reduced through diligent effort, though not eliminated en-
tirely, and the existence of a link between the Index’s mechanism, and popular aspirations that
change in tandem with progress. The Index’s partial dependence on opinion surveys, for example,
means that it equates evaluations of the same process by different publics, using the same measure-
ment tool, despite divergent public expectations in different countries that affect the evaluation of
facts. This means that the higher the ceiling of expectations, the less this tool is capable of reflecting
real change. Some of the Index’s indicators compare texts that reflect the same legal and constitu-
tional principles in different legal environments, environments that might be undergoing different
processes of development. There is also the impact of language differences; a certain term could
mean one thing in one country, and another in a different country. However, awareness of these
constraints by the research team and the readers, and their ability to take them into consideration,
enhances the Index’s effectiveness as a tool. To arrive at the best results therefore, the Index must
be used sensibly.
1// In some cases, data gathered earlier than this period was used for reasons that have to do with the periodical nature
of information. Most of this information is based on surveys carried out by central statistical departments that have their
own timeline. Time elements involved, and relevant to various facts, will appear in the text as necessary. This time frame
will be taken into consideration in subsequent reports.
2// These indicators correspond to numbers 13, 15, 23, 30, ( for details, see in annex No. 1 on ARI website“http://
3// The two suspended sections, relevant to illiteracy and education, correspond to Number 36, and have four sub-
indicators: the first deals with illiteracy, the second with illiteracy disparities between men and women, and the third and
fourth deal with the percentage of college graduates, and disparities between males and females.
4// This Index covered various periods starting in 1996, and is still published by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and
Survey Research in Ramallah, where preparations are underway for the publication of the eighth report. To view the
seventh report, go to “http://www.pcpsr.org”
5// See annex No.1, which contains a list of indicators used in the Arab Democracy Index
6// See annex No.1, which contains a list of detailed indicators, the sources of information and the manner of calculating
7// We could reconsider this in the future, based on a comparison between the image reflected by the Index, and the one
resulting from in depth analyses of the condition of Arab political systems. It would be useful to do that if we find that
there is a possibility to harmonize between pictures emerging from various research efforts in the field.
8// Two indicators (13 and 15) were suspended in this survey.
9// One indicator (23) was suspended in the present survey.
10// One indicator (30) was suspended in the present survey.
Figure 3-1: The Index’s Democracy Score Level
The Index can be read at different levels:
The first level involves reading the final numerical projection (overall figure), which allows a general
and unencumbered view of the democratic transition process in Arab countries in which a survey
was conducted. It also allows us to take stock of the democratic transition process separately in each
The second level involves reading the numerical projections of the Index’s sub-indicators, on the
basis of which the indicators are classified into groups, like the results of sub-indicators relevant to
practices, means, rights and freedoms, or the rule of law. One could also read each country’s results
separately. On the other hand, it is possible in principle to use the Index to compare various Arab states, taking
into consideration the context in which pictures of different countries were drawn. Just as bodies
appear bigger or smaller depending on their distance from the lens when the picture is taken, data
gathered through inconsistent tools in this Index could be misleading if their context is not clear.
One should pay special attention to this consideration when making comparisons.
The Index’s methodology presupposes a high level of coordination and agreement between research
groups in different countries, and there is no doubt that this requirement will improve as differ-
ent national research teams gain experience. There is also no doubt that other parts of the annual
report (the qualitative reports, in particular) will contribute to defining the contours of the static
image drawn by the Index, and help the reader better imagine what lies behind, and around, it.
This first report aims at establishing a framework for future measurements; it acts as a frame in
which pictures will be displayed, year after year.
In any reading, the Index’s score can range between zero and one thousand; this applies to the
indicators and sub-indicators in any mode of classification. In general, and with a certain amount
of distortion that cannot but be noticed by the reader, one can assume that the Index’s scores, the
collective one and the one specific to a given country or sector, could be used to classify countries
into categories. We could say that any score below 400 indicates undemocratic conditions, and a
lack of policies aimed at fostering stirrings in favour of a democratic transition. We could say, in the
same vein, that a score between 400 and 700 indicates undemocratic conditions that comprise a
few elements of democracy, which reflect either a tendency towards a transition, or that the politi-
cal regime is amenable to such an eventuality. A score between 700 and 1000 reflects, on the other
hand, a certain amount of progress in the democratic transition, representing a situation that needs
deeper analysis, and additional indicators to evaluate more fully.
Figure 2-2: The Arab Average, by Type of Indicator (Means-Practices)
These two features -the embryonic nature of the democratic transition, and the fact that it is encour-
aged from abroad – apply to the region as a whole. The large discrepancy between the two kinds
of indicators applies to all the surveyed countries, save for Saudi Arabia, in which the democratic
transition process did not yet reach a measurable stage. Saudi Arabia still maintains a closer bal-
ance between political practices and their legal framework than countries that have already started
transitioning, but have not yet gone far enough to demonstrate an equal amount of progress in the
field of implementation.
Figure 2-3: Indicator Scores by Type (Means-Practices) and Country
This section analyses the indicators on the regional and
individual country levels, using the Index’s general data
and data that reflects aspects of the means or practices,
as well as the sub-indicators for the four values or princi-
ples mentioned in the methodology.
The Index’s overall score stands at 508, meaning that the eight countries whose indicators were ex-
amined show a certain tendency towards a democratic transition, and reflects an initial willingness
in the Arab region to democratise, though this tendency is still at an embryonic stage.
The individual countries’ scores, (figure 2-1 below) indicate that discrepancies between the eight
countries are staggering. Jordan, with a score of 609, tops the list of countries that show progress
in the process of democratic transition, followed by Morocco (561), Palestine (553), Egypt (512),
Yemen (494), Lebanon (489), Algeria (485) and finally, Saudi Arabia, with (363). The last is the only
surveyed country whose score does not rise above the 400 mark, which the team had a priori ear-
marked as the cut-off point between autocracy, and signs of democratic transition. We can therefore
speak of a tendency towards democratic transition in the region as a whole.
Figure 2-1: Index, by Country
We can also say that this democratic transition is still at the embryonic stage and largely reliant on
outside encouragement. As figure 2-2 below indicates, what signals the embryonic nature of this
democratic transition is that the score for the means (752 points) is almost double that for practices
(407 points). One should bear in mind that indicators relevant to the means address only constitu-
tional and legal texts, and that the legal reform processes receive encouragement from abroad, en-
couragement that has been gaining momentum since the early 1990’s, but whose impact on political
practices is still weak.
Figure 2-4: Average Scores for the Index’s Sub-Indicators Relative to Democratic Values Compared to Indicators
Relative to Practices, Means and the General Average.
The reader will note that the gap between the scores of the means and practices is smallest in Saudi
Arabia, which had the lowest scores in the index, with a ratio of (10:10), followed by Jordan, which
had the highest score in the index, the ratio is (10:7). The gap then widens for the other countries,
ranging from (10:3) in Egypt and (10:5) in Lebanon. These figures correspond to the prevailing
impressions regarding the degree of stability of each country, since it is natural for practices to keep
pace with the legal framework when this framework is stable, and when political and administrative
life is consistent with it. This happens either because this framework has remained unchanged for a
long time, or because changes within it have successfully moved on to a practice mode acceptable
Transitions built on reform measures instigated by the ruling elite of the country, i.e. that does not
happen as a result of a dramatic political shift (like a revolution) leading to a radical change of this
elite, cannot produce a major change in political practices. This is because the elite want to main-
tain their status, as well as ensure a minimum level of political stability by limiting turbulences dur-
ing the period of transition, an unstable time by nature. To avoid any undesirable surprises from the
transition process, local elites and conservative currents within society as well as the international
community work in tandem to support the slow pace of transition.
The reader will note that disparities between the values of democratic transition, from one country
to the other, seem quite consistent with their respective socio-economic conditions. The Index’s
average scores for values, or principles, as Figure 2-4 shows, decline gradually from (535) for respect
for freedoms, to (520) for strong and accountable public institutions, (490) for the rule of law, and
(431) for equality and social justice.
Figure A-2-4: Arab Average Score for Values or Principles
What is noteworthy, however, is that the scores of the Index’s sub-indicator relevant to the value of
“equality and social justice” show a marked difference between the indicators of means and prac-
tices, as figure 2-4 below shows. It is the only value that shows an increase when its indicators are
separated from those of the means, and are confined to practices. It moves from the lowest position
among indicators relative to means, to the second position. On the other hand, there is a sharp drop
in the Index’s sub-indicator score for the “rule of law” value, when it is confined to practices. When we see the distribution of the index’s scores for individual countries, regarding the sub-
indicators relative to values or principles (figure 2-5 below), we find a discrepancy in the order of
the sub-indicators’ scores relative to the eight countries. While the “respect for rights and freedoms”
sub-indicator is at the top of the list of values in Yemen and Lebanon, it is at the bottom of the list
in Saudi Arabia and Morocco. Moreover, while the sub-indicator relative to the rule of law tops the
list in Jordan, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Palestine, the sub-indictor for equality and social justice
is at the top of no country’s list. The sub-indicator relative to strong and accountable institutions
occupies the top position in Morocco and Egypt, and the second in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon
Figure 2-6: Average Score for the Arab Index’s Indicators Figure 2-5: Sub-Indicators According to Democratic Values for Individual Countries
We can therefore summarise areas of weaknesses and strengths in each of the eight countries as
// Jordan has the best score in the general index. It had the highest rank for the sub-indictor relative
to practices and for the rule of law.
// Algeria had the second to lowest rank for the sub-indicators relative to practices and to equality
and social justice.
// Saudi Arabia had the lowest rank in the general index, and was eighth in respect for rights and
freedoms and presence of strong and accountable public institutions, and in the sub-indicator rela-
tive to means.
// Palestine had the highest rank in equality and social justice.
// Lebanon had the highest rank in respect for rights and freedoms.
// Egypt had the highest rank in the sub-indicator relative to the means.
// Morocco had the highest rank in the sub-indicator relative to strong and accountable public
// Yemen had the lowest rank in respect for the rule of law.
When evaluating each of the eight countries’ average indicator scores, we find that most of these
scores fall within a very small range of difference. An examination of the standard deviation rela-
tive to values reveals that, in addition to the indicators’ very low scores, there is a close similarity
between the countries’ scores on a large set of indicators: the ability to criticise the authorities, cen-
sorship on publications and the internet, education and the treatment of detainees.
Some indicators’ scores showed a high standard of deviation compared to other indicators, such as
the ones relating to the ability of human rights organisations to operate, violations of the constitu-
tion, holding the government accountable, personal safety and the licensing of political parties.
The highest average score by indicator in all eight countries, 875, was obtained by two different
indicators, both relative to means: the freedom of assembly, and the right to a fair trial (figure 2-6).
Four other indicators scored over 800; three between 700 and 800, five between 600 and 700,
seven between 500 and 600, three between 400 and 500, two between 300 and 400, four between
200 and 300, two between 100 and 200, and three between 1 and 100. The indicator relative to
allocations for heath and education compared to security, scored zero in all countries covered in
Figure 2-7: Jordan’s Sub-Index According to Type, Compared to the Average Scores of the Arab Sub-IndexFigure 2-8: Jordan’s Sub-Indicators According to Democratic Principles (Values) Compared to the Average Scores
of the Arab Index
At 609, Jordan had the highest score among the eight surveyed countries, 104 points above the
overall average score. As annex 4-1 shows, seven indicators received a score of one thousand: some
were relative to means, like freedom of political parties, right of assembly, right to a fair trial and
independence of the judiciary; and some to practices, like violations of the constitution, govern-
ment accountability and opposition views in the local media. Conversely, two indicators, relative to
expenditure on health and education and to prosecuting civilians in state security courts, received
a score of zero. Among the remaining indicators, four scored between 800 and 900, seven between
700 and 800, two 600 and 700, five 500 and 600, two 400 and 500, two 300 and 400, four 200 and
300, and two indicators scored between 1 and 100.
While the score for the sub-indicator relative to the means is close to the eight countries’ average, as
figure 2-7 shows, the sub-indicator for practices is markedly higher than the average. Sub-indicators
relative to democratic values and principles are above the sector’s average score for all four sub-
indicators, while the score relative to the rule of law appears markedly higher, as figure 2-8 shows. The average score for indicators relevant to means remains higher in Jordan for all the “values”
sub-indicators, except for those related to public institutions (annex 4-9). It is the only case – apart
from Saudi Arabia – where none of the “practices” sub-indicators rise above those of means.
This result suggests that there is need to carry out a detailed study regarding the limited progress in
the domain of public institution building.
Algeria ranked seventh on the Index (485 points). Five indicators out of 10 received the highest
possible score (1000), while only two indicators relative to practices received a similar score. As
indicated by annex (4-2), three indicators received a score of zero, while we were unable to evaluate
two of the Index’s 36 indicators.
The sub-index relative to the type of indicator (figure 2-9) shows that Algeria scored higher than
the Arab average as far as means are concerned, though the sub-index for practices is lower than
the Arab average.
The sub-indicator for values or principles of democracy (figure 2-10) reveals low scores for Algeria in
the areas of strong and accountable public institutions, and equality and social justice, though they
increase for public freedoms and the rule of law.
Results by country
Results by country
Figure 2-10: Algeria’s Sub-Indicators According to Democratic Principles (Values) Compared to the Average
Scores of the Arab Sub-Index
Figure 2-9: Algeria’s Sub-Index According to Type, Compared to the Average Scores of the Arab Sub-Index
With an overall score of 363, Saudi Arabia
1 ranked eighth in the Index. Five indicators (three of
which were relative to means) received the highest score (1000), fourteen got a zero, while we were
unable to evaluate the indicator relative to state security courts. The remaining indicators ranged
between 3 and 964 (annex 4-3).
The sub-index of the type of indicator shows that Saudi Arabia scored significantly lower than
the Arab average in matters related to means, though the scores for practices are higher than this
average (figure 2-11). Saudi Arabia is the only country among the eight where the score relative to
practices is higher than that of the means.
As to the sub-indexes for principles and values, as figure 2-12 shows, they indicate that Saudi Ara-
bia’s score is lower than the Arab average in all aspects except for the sub-index related to the rule
of law, which is slightly above the Arab average.
While indicators for the means receive the sub-index’s highest score for the rule of law, indicators for
practices receive the lowest score in the sub-indicators for equality and social justice (annex 4-10).
This result seems quite strange for a country where foundations for equality and social justice were
laid early after the success of the revolution, and which, until quite recently, enjoyed certain ele-
ments of socialism. It seems that the socio-political struggle of the two past decades has had a considerable adverse
impact on the country. In any case, Algeria’s situation needs to be studied more diligently, and in
Figure 2-12: Saudi Arabia’s Sub-Index According to Type, Compared to the Average Scores of the Arab
Once indicators for practices and means are separated in the sub-indexes relevant to democratic
principles and values, Saudi Arabia parts ways with the other countries in that the means index,
which is usually higher, gets a zero score in two areas: strong and accountable public institutions,
and equality and social justice, (annex 4-11).
These results are interesting. At first glance, it seems that there is a certain current in Saudi Arabia
in favour of transition to democracy, on the level of actual practices, but that this tendency is un-
able to express itself through legislation in the absence of a parliament. A more detailed study is
worthwhile regarding daily practices, and the democracy-related value system prevalent in Saudi
society, to ascertain whether there is a real current in favour of democratic transition, regardless of
the current legal and institutional environment.
Palestine’s score of 553 points put it in third place among surveyed countries. Seven out of 10 indi-
cators received the highest score (1000), for indicators relevant to the means, due to the relatively
late drafting of the Palestinian Basic Law, while three indicators relevant to practices had a similar
score. However, 6 indicators relevant to violation of the basic law, political party freedom, arbi-
trary detention, ill-treatment of detainees, personal safety and allocations for health and education
compared to security, got a score of zero (annex 4-4). No doubt, the colonial condition under which
Palestine lives plays an important role in this matter. Two indicators received a score above 800,
four between 600 and 800, six 500 and 600, and 8 indicators scored between 1 and 499. The sub-
index according to type, as figure 2-13 shows, indicates that Palestine scored slightly above the Arab
average for both means and practices.
As to the sub-index relative to democratic principles (figure 2-14), it shows that Palestine’s scores are
higher than the Arab average except for those related to institutions. The high score for the rule of
law is particularly noteworthy, and is due to high scores given to legislation-related issues; interest-
ingly, Palestine had the second highest score in the-sub index relevant to means. Particularly noteworthy is the low average score for indicators relevant to practices, in the area of
strong and accountable public institutions (annex 4-12). We believe that several factors contributed
to weakening Palestinian institutions, among which are the lack of sovereignty and the physical de-
struction of many public institutions by the Israeli occupation, though the nature of the Palestinian
National Authority (PNA) itself, most probably, did not help establish proper foundations for public
Figure 2-12 Saudi Arabia’s Sub-Index according to type Compared to the Average Scores of the Arab Sub-
Figure 2-13: Palestine’s Sub-Index According to Type, Compared to the Average Scores of the Arab Sub-Index
Figure 2-14: Palestine’s Sub-Indicators According to Democratic Principles (Values) Compared to the Average
Scores of the Arab Sub-Index
With a score of 489, Lebanon ranked sixth in the Index, with eight indicators (four out of which
were relevant to the means) receiving the highest possible score (1000). Six indicators received a
score of zero (annex 4-5): arbitrary arrests, the ill-treatment of detainees, personal safety, allocations
to health and education in the budget, state security courts and school dropouts. Only one indicator
from the remaining ones had a score above 900, four a score between 600 and 750, five a score of
500, and the rest a score between 28 and 450.
The sub-index relative to type, as figure 2-15 shows, reveals that Lebanon’s scores were very close to
the Arab average for both means and practices. It seems that the complicated sectarian and political
balance of power in the country is holding back progress in the legal reforms.
Figure 2-15: Lebanon’s Sub-Index According to Type Compared to the Average Scores of the Arab Sub-Index Figure 2-16: Lebanon’s Sub-Indicators According to Democratic Principles (Values) Compared to the Average
Scores of the Arab Sub-Index
When indicators relevant to means and practices are separated to calculate the average of sub-
indexes relevant to democratic values, it becomes clear that the rule of law receives the lowest score
among all other sub-indexes. Similarly, the sub-index for rights and freedoms remains higher for
the means than for practices (annex 4-13), although this sub-index is one of Lebanon’s strong points.
Consequently, it seems that Lebanon is more of a liberal than a democratic country, and the sectar-
ian factor perhaps acts as an impediment to democracy, given that state and religion in Lebanon
are not separate.
Eg y pt
Egypt received a score of 512, and ranked fourth in the Index, with seven indicators out of nine
obtaining the highest score (1000) among indicators relevant to means. As annex 4-6 shows, eight
indicators received a score of zero: the ill-treatment of detainees, allocations for health and educa-
tion, state security courts, corruption in public institutions, violation of the constitution, licensing
of political parties, ability of human rights organisations to operate and censorship on publications
and the internet,. Only one among the remaining indicators received a score of 800, two a score
between 600 and 650, three a score of 500, and four indicators ranged between 50 and 200. It is
important to note that five indicators were not calculated in the case of Egypt, given the inability
to conduct an opinion survey, and lack of alternative sources of information. One indicator was
discarded because the nature of available information was not consistent with the formula used in
The sub-index according to type shows, as in figure 2-17, that Egypt received the highest scores
among the eight countries as far as means were concerned, and a lower than average score for the
sub-index related to practices.
The sub-indicator relevant to democratic principles (figure 2-18) shows that Egypt scored under the
Arab average in the two areas of equality and social justice and the rule of law, and above average
for respect for rights and freedoms and strong and accountable public institutions.
Figure 2-17: Eg ypt’s Sub-Index According to Type, Compared to the Average Scores of the Arab Sub-Index
Figure 2-18: Eg ypt’s Sub-Indicators According to Democratic Principles (Values) Compared to the Average
Scores of the Arab Sub-Index
In the case of Egypt, it is worth noting the marked drop in the score for practices in the sub-index
relevant to the rule of law, and the gap between means and practices as far as respect for right and
freedoms is concerned, (annex 4-14). In the area of respect for rights and freedoms, the average in-
dicator for means was the highest among all detailed sub-indexes (it received a score of 1000), while
for practices, it was second to lowest (336 points). Morocco
Morocco occupies the second position on the Index, with 561 points, a score slightly different from
that of Palestine. From the twelve indicators that received the highest score (1000), seven were
among the indicators for means. Fourteen indicators received a score of zero: the ill-treatment of
detainees, state security courts, prevention of torture, and school dropouts (annex 4-7). Only one of
the remaining indicators received a score of 900, two a score of 750, three between 600 and 650,
and one a score of 500. Six indicators received a score between 200 and 450, and five between 1 and
200. It is important to note that the team was not able to obtain information on arbitrary detention,
and on expenditures on health and education compared to security.
The sub-index according to type shows, as in figure 2-19, that Morocco scored higher than the
Arab average for both means and practices.
The sub-indicator relevant to democratic principles (figure 2-20) reveals that Morocco scored above
the Arab average in all sub-indicators, except in the area of respect for rights and freedoms. With
regard to respect for rights and freedoms, the average score for indicators relevant to practices drops
to 371, compared to 750 when considering means (annex 4-15).
Figure 2-19 Morocco’s Sub-Index According to Type, Compared to the Average Scores of the Arab Sub-Index
Results indicate that Egypt has not yet made the transition from creating the legal framework for
political liberalism to an actual liberal political life, and that the economy’s liberalisation did not
bring in its wake the conditions for genuine social security.
Figure 2-20: Morocco’s Sub-Indicators According to Democratic Principles (Values) Compared to the Average
Scores of the Arab Sub-Index
Yemen comes in fifth position with a score of 494. Among ten indicators that received the highest
score (1000), six were related to means. As the figure in annex 4-8 shows, seven indicators scored
zero: violations of the constitution, arbitrary detention, ill-treatment of detainees, state security
courts, school dropouts, expenditures on health and education and the ability of human rights
organisations to operate. Only one indicator from among the remaining ones scored 800 points,
two between 700 and 750, three between 500 and 600, six between 300 and 450, and four scored
between 1 and 300 points.
The sub-index according to type shows, as in figure 2-21, that Yemen scored higher than the Arab
average as far as means are concerned, and lower than the average as far as practices are con-
The sub-indicator relevant to democratic principles or values reveals (figure 2-22) that Yemen
scored higher than the Arab average for respect for rights and freedoms and presence of strong and
accountable public institutions. However, it scored lower than the average for equality and social
justice, and the rule of law.
Figure 2-21: Yemen’s Sub-Index According to Type, Compared to the Average Scores of the Arab Sub-Index
Figure 2-22: Yemen’s Sub-Indicators According to Democratic Principles (Values) Compared to the Average Scores
of the Arab Sub-Index
Morocco received the second highest score (after Jordan) in the sub-index regarding strong and ac-
countable public institutions, when seen independently from indicators relevant to practices. This
means that there is a clear shift, on the state’s part, to transition, not yet manifested to the same
extent in other sectors. One possible explanation is the weak economy, but this deserves further
Of note is the gap, in the area of rule of law, between the average score of indicators related to prac-
tices (79), compared to those related to means (750), (annex 4-16).
It is also interesting to note the inconsistencies in the democratic transition process in Yemen. It is
not clear if the country’s political status (as a united entity) and its geographic-cultural character
have had an impact on that. The matter needs further investigation.
Indicators ExplainedIndicators Explained
Indicator n° 1 : Separation of powers
Description : A constitution or basic law guaranteeing the separation of powers, and the govern –
ment’s accountability to an elected parliament that can give or withdraw confidence.
// 250 points were deducted from Jordan’s score because the constitution states that the King ap –
points the Second Chamber of Parliament (the Senate)
// 250 points were deducted from Algeria’s score because the President has the right to appoint one
third of the National Assembly (majlis el umma).
Indicator n° 2 : Periodic and fair elections
Description : Presence of constitutional or legal guarantees ensuring periodic free and fair elections,
both municipal and legislative, based on an electoral system that does not discriminate against cer –
tain groups or sectors of the population, based on gender, ethnicity, region or political background,
and guarantees equality among all. The system should also guarantee the right of all persons, and
eligible individuals, to submit their candidacy, without restrictions.
Indicator n° 3 : Limitations on the powers of the executive branch
Description : Whether the executive authority has a constitutional prerogative to dissolve the elect –
ed parliament, postpone or cancel elections, declare a state of emergency or any other equivalent
measure, for a long period of time, and without parliament’s approval. Indicator n° 7
: Freedom of the media
Description : Presence of constitutional or legal guarantees allowing individual citizens, groups and
political parties to own media outlets like newspapers, magazines, radio stations, news services,
internet sites, publishing houses, and the like, without very difficult basic, financial or bureaucratic
// An expert’s opinion was relied on in Algeria.
Indicator n° 8 : Independence of the judiciary
Description : Presence of constitutional or legal guarantees ensuring the independence of the judici-
ary, especially the extent to which the executive authority can appoint or remove judges Indicator n° 5 : Right of assembly
Description : Presence of constitutional or legal guarantees ensuring the right of assembly and
Indicator n° 6 : Legal guarantees against torture
Description : Presence of constitutional or legal guarantees banning the use of torture
// Concerning the appointement and dismassal of judges, scores are based on expert’s opinion for
Algeria and Saudi Arabia, data was only partially available for Yemen and unavailable for Egypt.
Indicator n° 4 : Right to form political parties
Description : Presence of constitutional or legal guarantees ensuring the right to form political par –
ties Indicator n° 9
: Right to a fair trial
Description : Presence of constitutional or legal guarantees upholding the citizens’ right to a fair
trial, and to the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise
Indicator n° 10 : Gender equality
Description : Presence of constitutional or legal guarantees regarding gender equality
// An expert’s opinion was relied on in Yemen
// The documentation of information was incomplete for Algeria, Lebanon and Morocco
// All data in the report covers the period of the survey, and during that period, no local or legisla –
tive councils were dissolved. 250 points were deducted from Jordan’s score because the government
appoints the heads of municipal councils, 250 points were deducted from Palestine and Lebanon’s
scores because parliament was obstructed during the survey period, and 500 points were deducted
from Egypt’s score because local elections were postponed.
Indicator n° 12 : Government accountability
Description : Number of cases where the vote of confidence was given, or withdrawn, from the gov –
ernment; number of cases where fact-finding missions, or missions to investigate the government’s
performance were established, and number of cases where government officials were questioned.
// Information from Jordan, Palestine, Egypt and Morocco covers the survey period, while infor –
mation from Algeria and Lebanon covers 2006, and from Yemen covers 2007.
Indicator n° 13 : Publication of draft laws
Description : Number of draft laws, out of the total, published in the local media, like newspapers
This indicator was suspended in the survey due to a lack of information from most countries (only
Egypt, Jordan and Palestine provided relevant information).
// There was no information regarding divorce and inheritance in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, and
the opinion of an expert was used in Yemen.
// Regarding the Nationality Law, no information was available in Jordan and Algeria, and their
score was based on the presumption of equality.
Indicator n° 11
: Hindrances to parliament’s work
Description : Presence of an elected parliament and local councils, and whether there were cases
whereby the work of the elected parliament or local councils was obstructed, or local or parliamen –
tary elections were delayed or cancelled, except when ordered by an authorised court. // No information was available from Egypt concerning the first part (ratio of those who believe
that there is corruption), because no opinion survey was conducted.
// Regarding the second part, i.e., corruption cases referred to the law, no information was avail
able from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Morocco and Yemen, and information from Algeria and Pales –
tine was not documented.
// Information from Jordan covered 2006, from Egypt 2006-2007, while information from Algeria
and Palestine was not time-specific.
Indicator n° 15 : Obstructing enacting legislation
Description : Number of cases in which the executive authority tried to obstruct legislative work,
such as not enacting and publishing laws approved by the legislative, or attempting to void laws of
their content by issuing executive orders that contradict their provisions.
// This indicator was suspended due to lack of information.
Indicator n° 16 : Use of wasta (favoritism) in public employment
Description : The people’s perception regarding the use of wasta in public sector employment.
Indicator n° 14
: Corruption in public institutions
Description : Ratio of those who believe that there is corruption in public institutions, and number
of corruption cases referred to the courts.
// Egypt’s score was not calculated for this indicator because a survey could not be carried out.
Indicator n° 17 : Performance of public institutions
Description : The people’s evaluation of the public institutions’ ability to deliver services, and play
their role effectively.
// Egypt’s score was not calculated for this indicator because a survey could not be carried out.
// There is a shortage of documented information in Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Algeria.
// An expert’s opinion was relied on in Yemen.
// The team could not evaluate the situation in Lebanon due to the lack of constitutional clarity.
// Information from Jordan and Palestine covers the survey period, from Saudi Arabia covers
2006, from Morocco covers 2006-2007, while information from Algeria and Yemen was not time-
Indicator n° 19 : Political and economic independence
Description : Extent of the general budget’s dependence on foreign assistance, dependence on for –
eign markets to sell public sector products and presence of foreign military bases.
// Information from Algeria and Lebanon regarding foreign assistance lacks documentation.
// An expert’s opinion was relied on in Yemen.
// Information regarding exports is undocumented in Algeria and Palestine.
// The opinion of an expert was used in Lebanon.
// Information regarding foreign bases in Lebanon lacks documentation.
// The opinion of an expert was used in Egypt and Yemen regarding presence of foreign bases.
// Although expert opinion tends to confirm a foreign military or paramilitary presence in Moroc-
co, the team decided not to take this into consideration due to a lack of sufficient documentation.
// Information from Jordan, Palestine and Lebanon regarding budgetary assistance covers 2007,
from Morocco 2006, Saudi Arabia 2008, and Egypt 2006-2007. Information from Algeria and
Yemen was not time-specific.
// Information from Jordan, Morocco and Yemen regarding exports covers 2006, from Saudi Ara –
bia 2007, Egypt 2006-2007, and from Palestine, Lebanon and Algeria was not time-specific.
Indicator n° 20 : Political reform
Description : The people’s belief that the executive authority is introducing political reforms based
on a genuine interest on its part to do so, and the public’s evaluation of the general condition of
democracy in the country.
// Egypt’s score was not calculated because no opinion survey was conducted. Indicator n° 18 : Violation of the constitution
Description : Number of cases in which provisions of the constitution were violated, and other
equivalent violations by the executive authority Indicator n° 21
: Ill-treatment of detainees
Description : Number of torture or death cases involving detainees during their detention period.
// The opinion of an expert was used in Saudi Arabia and Yemen
// Information from Algeria and Yemen lacks documentation
// Information from Jordan, Palestine and Egypt covers the survey period, from Lebanon, it cov –
ers 2006, Yemen 2007, while information from Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Morocco was not time-
Indicator n° 23 : Right of Assembly and peaceful demonstrations
Description : Ratio of requests for permission to hold meetings or organise demonstrations com –
pared to the number of governement approvals.
// This indicator was suspended in the index due to lack of information.
Indicator n° 24 : Interference by the security services
Description : Number of cases in which a citizen requesting for a license or government documenta –
tion must seek prior approval of the security services, or obtain a certificate of good conduct from
them. // Information from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Morocco and Yemen covers 2006 and from
Palestine and Egypt covers the survey period (2006-2007).
Indicator n° 22 : Licensing political parties
Description : Allowing or obstructing party-related activities, such as licensing new parties or refus –
ing to do so, banning certain parties, or arresting political leaders for political motives.
// The score for this indicator was based on the results of an opinion survey in all countries, except
for Egypt, where no opinion survey was conducted.
// No information was available from sources other than the survey in Saudi Arabia, Morocco,
Lebanon and Yemen.
// There was only partial information from Jordan.
// An expert’s opinion was relied on in Algeria and Jordan.
// Given the nature of the information, data from Jordan, Palestine, Algeria and Egypt was not
// The opinion of an expert was used in Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
// There was no information from Algeria.
// Information from Lebanon lacked sufficient documentation.
// Information from Jordan covers the survey period, and for Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Palestine,
Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco and Yemen relevant information was not time-specific.
Indicator n° 26 : Criticising the authorities
Description : The people’s assessment of the citizens’ ability to criticise the government and leaders
without fear. Indicator n° 25
: Opposition views in the local press
Description : Number of times that the views and opinions of opposition parties appeared in the
// Egypt’s score for this indicator was not calculated because no survey was conducted.
Indicator n° 27 : Opposition newspapers and magazines
Description : The number of opposition newspapers and magazines compared to the total number
of newspapers and magazines.
// The opinion of an expert was used in Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Morocco.
// No information is available regarding opposition magazines in Lebanon.
// Information from Jordan, Palestine and Lebanon covers the survey period, from Egypt it relies
on 2007 statistics, from Yemen on 2005 statistics, in the case of Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Morocco
it was not time-specific.
Indicator n° 28 : Censorship of publications and the internet
Description : The citizen’s ability to access foreign publications and internet sites, and the number
of banned newspapers, magazines, books and internet sites.
// The score for the first part of this indicator could not be calculated for Egypt because no opinion
survey was conducted. // No information regarding the number of demonstration, was available from Saudi Arabia, Mo
rocco and Yemen.
// The evaluation of an expert was used to estimate the number of demonstrations in Algeria.
// Egypt’s score regarding participation in demonstrations could not be calculated, because it relied
on the results of an opinion survey that was not conducted in Egypt.
// The opinion survey did not produce results regarding regular participation in protest activities
in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
// Information from Jordan, Palestine and Egypt covers the survey period, and from Algeria was
Indicator n° 30 : Taking the administrative authorities to court.
Description : Number of cases raised in the high court of justice or an equivalent court (highest legal
recourse for suing the administration).
// This indicator was suspended in this survey.
// No information was available from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Yemen and Algeria.
// Information from Jordan covers the survey period, from Palestine and Egypt 2007, and Morocco
Indicator n° 31 : Arbitrary detention
Description : Number of detainees jailed without trial. // No information was available regarding the second part of this indicator from Saudi Arabia,
Lebanon, Morocco and Yemen.
// The opinion of an expert was used in Algeria.
// Information from Palestine covers the survey period, from Jordan and Egypt 2006, and from
Algeria was not time-specific.
Indicator n° 29
: Demonstrations and protest activities
Description : Number of demonstrations organised by individuals, labour and professional unions,
political parties and human rights organisations.
// No relevant information was available from Morocco.
// An expert’s opinion was relied on in Algeria.
// Information from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt and Yemen covers 2006, from Pales –
tine it covers the survey period, and from Algeria was not time-specific.
// No information for this indicator was available from Saudi Arabia.
// The opinion of an expert was used in Yemen.
// Although the law in Algeria allows the trying of civilians in special or military courts, interna-
tional human rights reports did not register any such cases during the survey period.
// Information from Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Yemen covers 2006, while from Palestine it cov –
ers the survey period.
Indicator n° 33 : Ability of human rights organisations to operate
Description : Ability of local and international human rights organisations to open up offices and
headquarters, obtain information regarding human rights violations and interview vulnerable in –
dividuals and groups.
// Algeria’s score relied on reports by international organisations, and an expert evaluation.
// There was a lack of documented information in Palestine
// The evaluation of an expert was used in Yemen for the first part of the detailed indicator
// Information from Jordan and Morocco covers the survey period, from Saudi Arabia and Yemen
2006, Egypt 2007, and from Algeria, Palestine and Lebanon was not time-specific.
Indicator n° 34 : Personal safety
Description : The people’s opinion regarding the state of law and order in the country, and available
guarantees for the security and safety of the individual and his family.
// Algeria’s score was not calculated for this indicator due to a shortage of information.
// Information from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt and Yemen covers 2006, from Pales –
tine 2007, and from Algeria and Morocco was not time-specific.
// Egypt’s score was not calculated for this indicator because no opinion survey was conducted.
Indicator n° 35
: Social security
Description : Rate of participation in the social security system. // The two sections relevant to male and female university graduates were suspended in this survey
due to lack of information; the score was entirely based on illiteracy levels.
// Information from Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt covers 2006, from Saudi Arabia 2007, and from
Algeria and Morocco 2005, while information from Jordan and Yemen was not time-specific.
Indicator n° 37
: School dropouts
Description : Levels of dropouts.
// Available information from Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Yemen and Saudi Arabia cov –
ers 2006, from Algeria 2003 (and is specific to the fifth grade), and from Jordan was not time-
Indicator n° 38 : Women’s Participation in the labour force.
Description: Rate of women’s participation in the labour force.
Indicator n° 32
: State security courts
Description : Number of cases in which civilians were tried in state security courts, in military
courts, or the like. Indicator n° 36
Description : Illiteracy levels among men and women, and ratio of university graduates based on
// Available information from Jordan and Yemen covers 2006, from Lebanon 2005, and from Pal –
estine 2007. Information from Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt was not time-specific.
Indicator n° 39 : Equal wages
Description: Equal wages for men and women.
// An expert’s opinion was relied on in Algeria and Yemen.
// Egypt’s score was not calculated because information was not available in a format consistent
with the system used in this index.
// Information from Jordan and Palestine covers 2007, from Saudi Arabia and Lebanon 2006, and
from Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Yemen was not time-specific.
// Morocco’s score was not calculated due to unclear information.
// Information from Jordan, Algeria, Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt and Morocco covers 2007, from
Saudi Arabia 2006, from Yemen 2004, and from Morocco was not time-specific. Indicator n° 40
: Government expenditure on the social sectors compared to security
Description : Government expenditure on the health and education sectors, compared to expendi –
tures on security related matters.
Annexes are available on ARI’s website in Arabic only.
1// Data relevant to Saudi Arabia in the Arab Democracy Index should be evaluated with a degree of flexibility. Com-
paring Saudi Arabia to the other seven countries in the Index, just like applying a number of the Index’s indicators to the
Saudi situation, involves a certain risk given that the Kingdom’s political infrastructure differs from the other countries
whose structures are based on the national state model. T his affects the political culture and value system prevalent in the
Kingdom and, by extension, the mechanisms of political change.
The awakening of societies as engine of change
Bassma Kodmani*The awakening of societies as engine of change
*Executive Director, Arab Reform Initiative
What has changed
A new feature of Arab societies is the political awakening taking place all around. In varying de
grees, societies are no longer as quietist as they once were. Although one cannot speak of an emer –
gence of a culture of democracy yet, states of mind and attitudes are nonetheless changing.
The state remains at the centre of reform processes. It is at the same time its object as well as its
principal instigator. Reform from the top is produced principally on constitutional and administra –
tive levels (and specifically concerns the modernization of procedures), as well as in the economic
domain. Constitutional reforms, or the implementation of new constitutions, are flowering eve –
rywhere, to the extent that one could speak of a “constitutional moment” in the Arab world. At
least ten countries have witnessed such reforms over the last three years: Morocco, Egypt, Sudan,
Algeria, Mauritania, Palestine, Lebanon, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Quantitative
indicators in this report show real progress at the level of written provisions. All Arab countries are
giving themselves the means that demonstrate their will to democratize political practices. How –
ever, indicators also show that the structure of power remains centred around a powerful head of
state and the executive.
Egypt is a case in point and deserves special attention. This paper provides a critical examination
of the report’s quantitative data with a special focus on Egypt.
In the last three years, Egypt has undergone several constitutional reforms and serves as a good
example of what political authority strives for in other countries. Some of these reforms have opened
the road to increased pluralism through the election of a president of the republic through direct
universal suffrage, which in turn allowed multiple candidates to run in the 2005 elections, and the
apparent strengthening of parliamentary power. Reforms, however, do not always contribute to the
implementation of democratic norms, and are often formulated in ways that provide a legal frame –
work to what are really restrictions on liberties and on the activities of the most challenging political
groups, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood. That these amendments are often passed hastily in
order to pre-empt democratic debate on them is yet a further indication of the regime’s resistance
to genuine openings.
This does not deny the fact that the Egyptian people were consulted four times in less than three
years (presidential elections, parliamentary elections, referendum on constitutional reform and
municipal elections) creating an atmosphere of mobilization in society, which has still not lost its
stamina. The public sphere and its various functions
Undeniably, the public sphere has opened in the majority of Arab countries, as a space of freedom
of expression, sometimes of protest, though only in very few cases as a space of participation.
Under the influence of a free media, which escapes state control, the public space of expression has
even extended to countries with authoritarian regimes. Satellite television channels opened the
breach almost a decade ago but, because they operated from de-territorialised public space, their
impact on local political situations remained limited. The emergence of privately funded national
independent media has changed the stakes in many countries. This is particularly true in Egypt
where the media landscape has undergone a dramatic change over the last three years with the
emergence of around twenty new newspapers and ten television channels funded by private con
sortiums. Whereas Lebanon, through its freedom of press, remained the regional exception for a
long time, Algeria underwent a genuine media revolution at the beginning of the nineties when the
government authorized publicly owned newspapers, thus opening the road to a proliferation of in –
dependent newspapers and to freedom of expression of all trends and critiques regarding the ruling
power. Kuwait also has a tradition of an independent press that enjoys relative freedom and Jordan
quite recently saw the state’s monopoly on its media shatter. In countries where state monopolies still
prevail (Syria, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia) the internet and blogs have become major sources of informa –
tion for the population as well as outside observers.
The public space of protest has seen important progress in certain countries: demonstrations, strikes,
sit-ins (i’tissam) take place even when they are illegal. Whilst the countries of the Maghreb (Algeria,
Morocco and Tunisia before the Ben Ali government) have always known such protest movements,
the phenomenon is new in Egypt, at least in its scale and duration. The incumbent power seems
more reluctant to use force to suppress demonstrations. When it does, it is exposed to embarrass –
ment because international television, Arab satellite channels and independent newspapers imme –
diately cover these events.
The opening of public space to expression and contestation is without doubt the most remarkable
progress in the Arab world. The fear that weighed like a lid on societies and shaped behaviour is
now lifted and the population is more inclined to mobilize. While Egyptians were in the habit of
demonstrating for external popular causes (for Palestine and Iraq, against the U.S. and Israel) on
university campuses or outside mosques after Friday prayers, this way of contestation has become
common practice and is nowadays used to express discontent and demands related to domestic
matters. The year 2007 was marked by almost uninterrupted strikes by the textile workers, sit-ins in
front of public buildings in protest against water shortages in certain regions that had been deprived
of drinking water for many years or against tax and price rises. The extent of the price rises which
literally sky-rocketed at the beginning of 2008 is not completely reflected in the indicators of this
report for it was still unknown at the time of compilation. These movements that received wide lo –
cal media coverage serve from now on as tests to measure the determination of the government and
its disposition to repress or negotiate. Demonstrations and the 2008 elections testify to a hitherto
unknown vigour of society and underline the major axis for a new mobilization.
The opening of public spaces takes new turns and mobilizes different players according to each
country. In Saudi Arabia, for example, the business sector appears more opportune than the politi –
cal and cultural arenas to initiate change. The emergence of Saudi women in the public domain is
new. Although numerous women have already held major positions in private companies, it is only
recently that they have been seen accessing high management positions, for example, in the Jed –
dah Chamber of Commerce, the Saudi Council of Engineers and the Bar Association. Numerous
women are today CEOs of hospitals, banks and corporations. Elsewhere in the Gulf, the appoint –
ments of the first female judges in the Emirates and in Qatar mark promising steps forward in the
domain which is the most sensitive for the culture and local customs, namely the rule of law.
Actors and Processes
The ability to organize and mobilize in order to formulate demands is in the experimental phase in
all Arab countries, in differing forms but with common characteristics.
New national and independent media, along with the freedom of press, have freed minds and
tongues although the culture of objective and factual information still has a long way to go. These
media have a double function. Firstly, they establish a horizontal link between previously isolated
citizens which makes a key factor in the reinforcement of a civil society and the emergence of a po-
litical society; they also build a vertical link – though still a nascent one – in that they serve to exert
pressure on the political authority. These media give scope to some social or political movements
even when the movements are not important in size. They create a new atmosphere, an impression
of effervescence that is changing mentalities. Accordingly, the media can be considered as a major
player of change in that it triggers a process of pressure from the bottom, as will be discussed further
The role of political parties remains limited, either because they are too new, or because they are
ossified from the lack of a renewal of their leadership. Political parties are, by their own admission,
“dehydrated” and the vibrant forces within societies do not believe in their abilities nor do they en –
rol in them. It is as if the government has locked them up by setting rules of the game that reduces
them to formal players in a confined and strongly constrained political space. Only the Islamist
parties have escaped this framework. They have always benefited from an alternative space (the
mosque and religious gatherings) and a dense network of support among the middle and working
In most countries, political parties are in no position to aggregate their populations’ aspirations.
Their inability to reform themselves from within and to formulate a program in response to the
key social concerns of the population leads to a loss of their primary purpose and ultimately dooms
Meanwhile alternative modes of organization and mobilization emerge. Like other regions of the
world which have seen peaceful outcomes from authoritarianism, civil society, organized in various
configurations, is making up for the absence of structured political forces by inventing new strate –
gies. We see new ways of mobilization emerging, informal and fluid, initiated by different groups
and factions of variable sizes, who taken separately have no significant influence, but who coalesce
around a specific issue of common concern before dispersing again.
Such mobilizations at work in Egypt are of two types. On one side the elites, calling specifically
for change in political practices, spearheaded by the Kefaya movement. Judges and magistrates
mobilize for the independence of their profession, professors for the freedom of speech in their uni-
versities, professional associations ( journalists, doctors, engineers) and civil rights organizations are
voicing demands for political change. On the other, there is mobilization of the disinherited, victims
of the land reform that reverses major rights gained by peasants during the Nasser era, workers
harmed by hasty privatizations, victims of water or bread shortages or from catastrophes (repeated
train accidents, families from un-salvaged ferry-boats).
The elite groups and grassroots movements are starting to engage with each other in different
ways. In some cases, groups that are traditionally antagonistic, join around a common priority. Hu –
man rights organizations, which have evolved towards a broadened definition of rights to include
economic and social rights, together with lawyers and journalists, come to the aid of peasants and
victims of catastrophes and shortages. They accompany popular uprisings by formulating social
demands in a careful but articulate political language.
The other framework is that of rainbow coalitions, made of different ideological and political cur –
rents centred on a common objective. This is seen with the Kefaya movement in Egypt, the al-liqa’ almushtarak (the common encounter) in Yemen, the coalition of the 18th October in Tunisia, or
the Declaration of Damascus in Syria which all unite socialists, communists, nationalists, islamists
A common characteristic of these different movements is their new acknowledgement of the neces
sity to agree around one common platform and a shared objective, namely a strategy to exit from
authoritarianism. For the first time in decades, the factionalism which characterised the opposition
is fading and a new fault line is taking shape, with democratic forces, all trends united on one side,
and the forces of authoritarianism (government, ruling party and the security apparatus) on the
Patterns of change
While reform from the top allows for the improvement of the formal structure of governance in nu –
merous countries, quantitative indicators in this report show the governments continue to indulge
in the same practices, i.e. nepotism, favouritism (wasta) and lack of transparency, with corruption
rates that tend to increase rather than regress as a result of stronger links between the state and the
private sector as well as with decentralization and the empowerment of local government.
Novelty, however, lies in the fact that these practices start to be contested in a more radical and
better organized form. Not by state institutions as happens in more established democracies, but
through pressure from society. Institutions which one expects to play the role of checks and balances
by holding government accountable, i.e. parliament, judicial and other commissions of control only
function weakly. They remain tributary to the executive authority and only have the power the lat –
ter agrees to concede.
These institutions often suffer from a serious problem of competence. The more the executive tries
to minimize the role of the legislative and the judiciary, the less capable these are to develop their
skills, because the means dedicated to their training and information are reduced. Parliamentar –
ians seldom have the staff, usually attached to an MP’s position in a democracy, who would be able
to bring them the necessary material to form a judgment and put them in a position to question the
government. When available, these competences are most often provided by extra-parliamentary
sources, i.e. the party to which they are affiliated, when the latter has the human and financial
resources (as in the case of the Islamist formations), foreign authorities who organize training pro –
grams (often insufficient) or even the private financial means of wealthy MPs
Thus, the actual impact from reform instigated from above remains limited. On the other hand,
the media, human rights organizations, independent unions and advocacy groups from civil society
constitute a source of pressure more disorganized yet more significant in that it obliges the executive
authority to react to their revelations, denunciations and demands. This is the case, for example,
for the institutions in charge of security such as the ministry of the interior, the police forces and
intelligence agencies in charge of maintaining law and order. When faced with revelations on hu –
man rights violations in police stations and the use of torture in prisons, relayed by NGOs and the
international media, they see themselves obliged to form inquiry commissions and be accountable
for some of their misbehaviours. They may not fundamentally change their practices but they are
at least publicly exposed and embarrassed. Progressively, they are becoming aware of their negative
image and have a difficult time crystallizing popular resentment. Pressure from the bottom appears
as an indispensable lever to force the ruling elites to change their practices and give real content to
formal reforms from above.
Public Opinion and Democratic Aspirations
Public opinion polls have become possible in Arab countries as a result of long battles to obtain
authorizations from the authorities and to start lifting the veil of opacity that characterizes the
countries of the region. The polls are not yet an instrument that shapes public opinion but they do
begin to bring a more subtle understanding of societies’ aspirations and priorities.
Polls indicate that public opinion as a whole yearns for a healthy but also strong state. Indicators
on corruption, favouritism, the state’s management of its social responsibilities, built from opinion
polls conducted for this report, when feasible, show a mediocre level of faith from the population
in its leaders. However, one-off polls conducted within the setting of this report, along with other
polls taken elsewhere, not only show strong support for democracy but also for gradual and peace-
ful change. Peaceful and gradual change is the watchword of all political forces in society. Islamists
and liberals, nationalists and socialists are all conscious of internal and external dangers linked to
the regional environment. Anxiety of seeing the scenarios of Iraq, Palestine, or Algeria in the 90s
replayed, take a big toll on opinion.
Practices and strategies from the opposition forces we have referred to, show a concept of change
widely shared by different political currents and social movements. All call for a State capable of
guaranteeing security, maintaining stability and taking basic social responsibility. Of course there
is much discussion on the notion of security (what security and whose?) which opposes the ruling
elites, for whom national security comes first, and active elements of civil society for whom human
security (access to health services, education and to a dignified life) must henceforth be part of the
What remains is that regional insecurity together with its internal repercussions, more or less im –
portant according to each country, shapes attitudes and the actual representation citizens have of
the expected effect of democracy. Many believe that democracy breeds unrest and that it is poten –
tially damaging not only to the economic development but also to personal security. However this
point of view is mainly held in the smaller states that have a weak social fabric, such as Kuwait and
Jordan, as opposed to Morocco or Egypt, which are much more stable states and have a greater
internal homogeneity and the means to defend their territory and internal security. However, a
majority of citizens across the region believe that democracy is an effective system for maintaining
Numerous dif ficulties weigh on the process of internal change in a number of countries in the re –
gion. Among these, two major types of challenges seem to inflect more specifically on the behaviour
of governments and of societies: the security challenge on one side and the deterioration of eco –
nomic and social conditions on the other.
Since the “war on terror” was defined an international priority and Arab governments summoned
to join in, the balance at the heart of state institutions has been modified. The security sector has
acquired an unprecedented importance in terms of budget, freedom of action and political influ –
ence. This new security paradigm weighs on more than one account on the evolution of reforms
and the indicators of this report. The upholding of “state of emergency” laws (or martial laws) is a
wild card that allows a power to override the institutions and the procedures defined by the law,
undermining the very framework that ought to constitute the rule of law. The lifting of state of
emergency laws has been a key demand from the opposition in many countries. However, these laws
are either maintained or replaced by anti-terror laws that are even harsher. Spending on security
(to the benefit of intelligence agencies and security forces rather than the army) has risen sharply
over the last five years. Comparison between security budget and social budget, whenever data is
available, is either systematically imbalanced in favour of the former or downright deteriorated to
the detriment of social spending. The paradigm of the war on terrorism forms a clamp that tightens on societies and deeply harms
the development of democratic practices in the relationship between State and society.
Civil Citizenship and Social Citizenship
The second challenge is economic and social. Economic indicators for Arab countries have seldom
been as good as in the last two years: revenue for oil and gas producing countries has reached
unprecedented heights, growth rates are strong all over and debt is, for most countries, no longer
a problem. For now, however, steep increases of basic commodities have reached the threshold of
the unbearable in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon. This has a repercussion
on the peoples’ priority aspirations: the struggle to satisfy basic needs takes on the shape of a fight
for survival and has clearly stepped over demands for freedom and democratic reform. Opposition
trends that express political demands are overwhelmed by social unrest and are forced to walk hand
in hand with groups demonstrating against poverty, unemployment and social division. The strikes
and demonstrations in Egypt during 2007 and early 2008, the unrest in Jordan to protest against
price rises of oil and food are half-way between a spontaneous ignition of anger and the early signs
of a practice of social citizenship. They lay open the question of access to citizenship and more im
portantly, of its actual content: will Arab societies follow the path of Latin Americans who began
by obtaining their civil rights and only strove twenty or thirty years later to access economic and
social citizenship and correct the socially dramatic effects of liberalism and market trends? Or will
the concept of full citizenship, civil and social, and that of human security, promoted by develop –
ment agencies, enforce itself ? Will the future of the Islamist movements depend on the outcome of
this process? Will they remain the main force capable of satisfying social demands and harvest the
benefits on the political level or will they need to share the representation of society and its demands
with other political trends, trade-unions and civil society movements?
The difficulty of quantifying in the Arab world
The limitations of quantitative analysis as an instrument for understanding realities were largely
underlined in previous works and debates between political scientists worldwide. We will only focus
on what is specific about the Arab world in this section.
Beyond the difficulty of accessing reliable first hand information, quantitative indicators seldom al –
low us to capture political practices implemented through informal processes. In all Arab countries
for example, traditional forms of consultation co-exist with modern institutions (when these exist
at a more or less advanced level). While the rule of law is not in force anywhere, internal political
balance is ensured by other means. Negotiations, bargaining processes and compromises, includ –
ing when a change occurs in key positions at the top of the state hierarchy, remain secured by
traditional mechanisms of consultation involving key groups and their constituencies. Not only in
Morocco, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Yemen but also in Lebanon, modern institutions only ratify
and formalize arrangements concluded outside them, between historically influential families and
groups: the Makhzen in Morocco, the Wahhabi establishment in Saudi Arabia, the tribal leaders
in Yemen. The legitimacy of such arrangements is secured before being formally adopted by par –
liaments or other modern institutions. In Saudi Arabia, the absence of political parties and of civil
society organizations, in the modern sense of the word, should not detract from the fact that the
royal family consults with the representatives of the key tribes, respects regional equilibriums and
negotiates with the religious establishment. Such consultations took place prior to the reform that
led to the expansion and reinforcement of the power of the Majlis el Shoura. In Kuwait the appeal
to the parliamentary procedure envisaged by the Constitution at the time of the death of the Head
of State in 2006 allowed a crown prince, thought to be unsuited, to be declared unfit and his brother
enthroned instead. But the implementation of this constitutional procedure was made possible only
because the MPs who negotiated this change belonged to the country’s most influential families
bound to the reigning family through historical agreements. In Lebanon, compromise between
different religious communities and their foreign protectors are always negotiated outside formal
institutions and are then ratified through institutional rules.
Likewise, quantitative indicators cannot measure the influence of “dark forces” or de facto powers
such as the security agencies or the religious institutions.
Finally, they conceal a distinction that must be made between countries that are relatively open
towards the outside world and wary of their external image (such as Jordan or Morocco) and those
that are traditionally less sensitive to it (such as Algeria or Saudi Arabia). The former are often
beneficiaries of international financial aid programs. They are engaged in a process of formal mod-
ernization of their institutions in the name of good governance and strive to respond to the criteria
defined by their foreign partners. The latter, generally richer and less dependants on foreign aid
don’t have this priority. Quantitative indicators account fully for these formal changes and penalize
countries that don’t pay equal attention to their image.
Algeria as a text book case
Algeria presents some difficulties to observers seeking to assess the social and political realities.
Some of these are common to many countries others are specific to it.
The first aspect is related to the nature of the political system based on the logic of the rentier state.
Briefly stated, legally, everything is permitted; practically everything is controlled. As a rentier state,
Algeria relies on its financial wealth and seems little concerned with either seeking efficiency, or
improving its image abroad. Hence the access to information, even open information, is laborious
if not perilous. The National Office of Statistics, though Algeria has high level statisticians, lapses
into lethargy. The dynamism of the Economic and Social National Council, presided over by an
independent left-wing public figure which collected fairly reliable data, was stopped in its tracks by
the nomination of a new manager at orders. The project to create an independent National Institute
of Economic and Social Conjecture was met with muf fled but efficient hostility from the executive.
In this context, it is difficult to build a representative image of the reality. This state of affairs serves
a government that refuses transparency and does not seem to be excessively antagonistic for the
On the academic level, practically the same situation prevails. University administrations do not
encourage, to say the least, empirical research on the evolution of the social and political situation
in Algeria. Professors, as a general rule, abide by this veiled prohibition. Resigned students direct
their research towards themes of theoretical interest or insignificant topics. Universities function as
inert bubbles, disconnected from the real world. In the absence of minimal academic support, there
is little hope that a representative image of the realities of Algeria’s social and political scene can
The economy is the only sector that seems to escape the rule, at least partially. The World Bank and
the IMF have in their possession cross-checked information on the state of public finances in Al –
geria which allows them to formulate detailed findings and analysis. Here as well, the World Bank
and the IMF are dependent on data provided by the Algerian government. One major distortion
for example is the price of oil on which they base their findings: the state budget is calculated on
the basis of 19US$ per barrel when it actually stood at 110$ per barrel at the end of 2007! In this
context, short of an “ethical fund” in the Norwegian mode, only foreign intelligence services can
access the truth.
Finally, the legacy of socialism and of a welfare state whose primary function is the redistribution
of wealth, is not affected and with the help of the increased income from oil and gas, was recon –
firmed. Social security, unemployment and pension benefits, education, remain sacred cows that
the government dares not touch. Indicators of social justice in this report only partially reflect the reality, though they cannot measure the quality of governance of these sectors and of the services
Reforms in the Mashreq set back by warfare, ideological bat-
tles, and regime resistance
Rami G. K houri* Reforms in the Mashreq set back by warfare, ideological bat
tles, and regime resistance
*Director, Isam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, American University of Beirut Political reform and democratization in the Mashreq region of the Arab world have largely stalled
or regressed in the past few years, due to a series of causes that include military and ideological
warfare, civil strife, spillovers from the American-led “global war on terror”, and the continued
resiliency of Arab autocratic ruling elites. This regressive status of Arab democratic reform can be
appreciated at two levels: macro-conditions that drive broad trends across the region, and micro-
conditions as manifested in specific developments in the fields of human rights, accountability, rule
of law, freedom of expression, and public institutions.
The Mashreq states addressed here include Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Iraq. Each is
defined by particular conditions that collectively constrain serious political reform, despite efforts
to do so in some cases. Iraq is the most difficult state in which to assess political reform efforts,
given that its entire state structure and leadership were dismantled by the American-led invasion of
2003, followed by subsequent erratic efforts to re-create a new governing structure. Time will tell
what replaces the former state and governance structures in Iraq, which for now is passing through
a difficult transition to an unknown destination. It is possible that some of the new governance in –
stitutions that emerge in Iraq will be truly democratic, though efforts in that direction to date have
been very inconsistent.
Throughout the Levant, the goal of democratic reform that first reared its head in the late 1980s
has been sidelined by far more pressing and larger national challenges, including issues of stability,
sovereignty, legitimacy, identity and national configuration. Three of the five Mashreq states – Pal –
estine, Lebanon and Iraq – suffered serious warfare and political violence in 2006-2007, while Syria
and Jordan remain firmly in the grip of strong, security-minded governments. Macro conditions
for reform simply do not exist these days in the Mashreq region. Democratic transformations must
await more propitious conditions on three levels – internally, regionally, and internationally.
Simultaneously, reforms continue to occur in other sectors of society, namely administrative, eco –
nomic, mass media, communications and education systems. The powerful forces of globalization,
commercialization and privatization – driven by both domestic needs as well as some foreign advo –
cacy – continue to drive liberalization and competition in these “non-political” sectors. This leads
to a somewhat contradictory situation that pervades the Mashreq and most of the Arab world:
political power and macro-level decision-making related to state ideology remain firmly in the grip
of central governments that increasingly rely on narrow elites, with no prospect for meaningful de –
mocratization in the coming years; but the prevalent trend in most other aspects of life – especially
media, economy and social services – is towards more open, pluralistic, and competitive conditions
that liberate citizens from the stultifying control of the state.
As more and more citizens look to the private and NGO sectors for basic services – or do without
some services in the poorest urban and rural quarters – the status of the Arab state itself has started,
in many cases, to change in the eyes of its own citizens. Centralized states and their local offices that
do not deliver what their citizens expect from them – basic security, essential social services, eco –
nomic opportunity, and expression of national or other identities – will find citizens in turn viewing the state as only one of several legitimate authorities in the land. National coherence and integrity
fray in such circumstances – Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine are three Levantine examples – leaving
the state to control a smaller share of society, in which reform efforts reach a smaller number of
Political autocracy and economic liberalism
The relationship between autocratic political systems and liberalizing socio-economic systems
seems to be slightly symbiotic and mutually reinforcing for the moment – especially when placed in
the context of foreign military-driven “democratization” in Iraq and Afghanistan. State authorities
that tightly control domestic power and decision-making on the one hand say they offer their citi
zens greater opportunities for personal economic development, travel, education and efficient ac-
cess to basic services in a secure environment, while, on the other hand, pointing to Iraq, Lebanon,
Afghanistan and Palestine to warn that abruptly speedy democratization driven by foreign pressure
will most likely lead to chaos, instability and mass suffering.
Indigenous democracy and human rights forces in these countries – both individuals and some or –
ganizations – nevertheless continue to advocate for reform, but with much less impact or credibility
than ever, for several reasons. Basic democratic rights for many citizens have dropped to the bottom
end of their priorities, in countries where basic day-to-day security and economic survival are much
more pressing needs. Conditions vary across the Mashreq region, but it seems fair to say that in
all countries – whether wracked by conflict or stressed by homegrown autocracy – sheer economic
survival and physical security have become much more critical demands for most citizens than the
niceties of republicanism or constitutionalism.
The war-torn lands of the Mashreq suffer additional reasons for the marginalization of democratic
reform. In Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine, the predominant aim of organized public and political ac-
tion has been to seize and exercise power, rather than to democratize it – to achieve and perpetuate
incumbency, rather than to refine governance norms. In more stable societies, the ruling power
elites have either portrayed democratic reform as an intrusive foreign plot or argued against it as a
destabilizing process. The American-led drive for democratization through warfare and political
pressures in Afghanistan and Iraq has left those countries as unwelcome examples and precedents
for such an approach. Equally strong American political, security and economic support for ruling
establishments engaged in serious domestic ideological battles in Lebanon and Palestine has gener –
ated similarly robust doubts about the wisdom of following Washington’s prescription for change. In
some cases, such as Syria, resisting American and other foreign pressures has made anti-American
“resistance”, “rejection” and “steadfastness” the rallying cries of new regional ideologies anchored
in transnational solidarity. This has explicitly included a rejection of American democratic pre –
The role of foreign actors
The role of foreign actors in Arab reform remains wildly erratic, broadly ineffective, and largely
problematic. The pressures, enticements, partnerships, threats, sanctions, rewards and cajoling that
have all been used to prod Arab democratization by the US, Europe and other foreign govern –
ments have had little practical impact on the actual exercise of political power or the quality of
human rights practices in the Mashreq. Whether attempted through aggressive unilateral acts like
American Congressional sanctions against Syria, or softer, broad-based transformational initiatives
like the EU’s Barcelona Process and its subsequent Neighborhood Policy, official foreign pressures
to prod democratic reforms have been received in the Mashreq with a prevalent combination of
perplexity and indifference, sometimes shifting into active opposition and resistance. Two main
reasons explain this: inconsistent policies by the foreign actors across the region and also within the
same country, i.e., threatening to withhold foreign aid from Egypt for its non-democratic govern-
ance system, but not doing the same in Tunisia, Morocco, or Jordan; and, the ability of Arab re –
gimes to accommodate foreign-inspired superficial transformations, i.e., establishing human rights
organizations or training judges, while resisting any real changes in their power structures and
The pattern of both foreign pressures and indigenous Arab autocracy are both inconsistent. The
US, for example, made several high-profile statements about the importance of promoting democ-
racy in Egypt and Saudi Arabia several years ago, without making similar statements about other
countries where state controls and democratic deficiencies are even more severe, like Tunisia. Other
Arab countries, like Jordan and Morocco, tend to fall in a middle ground: their autocratic systems
are less severe, and they are often praised by Western powers for making gradual reforms, though
their core political and economic decisions remain firmly in the grip of a restricted ruling elite that
is largely unswayed by popular sentiments or the results of parliamentary elections. Major Western
powers, especially the US, also broadly seem to have lowered their democracy-promotion rhetoric
in the past two years, as they assign higher priority to fighting terrorism and keeping Syrian- and
Iranian-allied Islamists out of power in the region.
A particularly significant blow to indigenous Arab democratic reform was the American-Israeli-
European boycott of Hamas’ victory in the January 2006 Palestinian general election, and the
subsequent sanctions imposed on all Palestinians, especially in Gaza after the Fateh-Hamas clashes
and split in mid-2007. The damage to Arab democracy prospects from this case was three-fold: it
retarded enthusiasm for generic democratic activism among some Arabs, undermined support for
any political initiatives emanating from Washington, and dented Europe’s once strong image as a
purveyor of humanistic values and a champion of democracy and the rule of law. Europe’s modern
legacy of supporting democratic reform in the region has also been somewhat exposed as thin, with
political rhetoric and economic support vastly outweighing practical efforts to prod tangible politi –
cal changes towards democracy.
The Mashreq region, like most of the Arab world, has continued in recent years to face the chal –
lenges of adjusting to new ideological currents since the end of the Cold War. The Arab Middle
East and North Africa (MENA) as a whole, but the Mashreq region in particular, has suffered from
three cruel and debilitating post-Cold War legacies: this remains the only region of the world where
large-scale democratization has not occurred since 1989, where foreign armies (Anglo-American,
Israeli, Turkish) continue to assault Arab countries at will, and where lands and people (Palestin –
ian, Syrian) remain subject to long-term foreign military occupation and active colonization. These
three phenomena combined with a fourth — largely stagnant living standards and future economic
prospects due to demographic-economic growth imbalances — to spur widespread domestic politi –
cal frustrations. In the Mashreq as in most of MENA, mainstream Islamist parties were the most
successful domestic groups in channeling citizen discontent into support for their programs. Not
surprisingly, therefore, parties that articulated ideologies in a vocabulary of faith emerged as the
strongest opposition groups. Hamas eventually won the election in Palestine. The Islamic Action
Front became the single largest and most powerful opposition group in Jordan (having once joined
the government in 1989). Hizbullah became the most powerful party in Lebanon, where it played
the dual role of a national resistance against Israel and also represented Shiite communal interests.
Several major Islamist groups shared power in post-war Iraq, mainly Da’wa and The Supreme
Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). The Muslim Brotherhood in Syria was crushed
in the early 1980s, but remains – underground and abroad – potentially the single most organized
political opposition in Syria. Eruption of islamism and sectarianism
The prevalent Islamist decision to enter into electoral politics in the past fifteen years was a double-
edged sword for Arab reform prospects. Democratic horizons were enhanced by the fact that the
single most powerful opposition group in most Arab countries was prepared to contest power peace
fully and democratically; yet it also spurred secular and non-Islamist Arab and foreign power elites
to severely restrict the contours and substance of any democratic, electoral, or participatory proc-
ess that threatened to see power shared among a wider group of political actors. The Arab world
as a whole effectively locked into place the basic political adjustment that it had initially made in
1986-92: political space would be opened slightly and governance systems liberalized partially, al –
lowing essentially for more freedom of expression and association, but no real change in the exercise
of power or the conduct of national policies. Consequently, for the past nearly two decades, much of
the Arab world, including parts of the Mashreq, have seen a more open media, many new political
parties, frequent local and national elections, and a much more lively civil society. Yet leaders and
policies in virtually all Arab countries have remained unchanged. This recent legacy of changes in
Arab political structures and administrative systems without any changes in prevailing ideology or
policy defines the current prevailing skepticism about meaningful reform.
Though liberalization without democratization has defined most Arab political systems in recent
years, a combination of reform agents continue to seek to promote more serious change towards
genuine democratic governance defined by political pluralism, accountability, the rule of law and
respect for human rights. They made little headway, though, and the mass frustration that followed
found its expression primarily in Islamist politics. As Islamist parties tested the waters of democratic
electoral politics, they simultaneously pursued the parallel strategy of building a strong grassroots
constituency through the provision of social services and expressing the political sentiments of ordi-
nary citizens. The Islamist approach to dealing with and accommodating an autocratic state power
elite that did not wish to share power in any meaningful way has seen reform initiatives hit a stone
wall, due to fears that democratization would lead to Islamist incumbency and rule. Two principal
forces have combined to limit reform momentums: ruling Arab elites and Western powers that fear
Islamist activism in recent years has been mirrored by other groups in society that similarly reflect
primordial identities and allegiances, namely tribal, ethnic and sectarian groups. They provided
four critical services to their constituents that the modern Arab state did not always effectively offer
all its citizens: a voice in society, a sense of identity, access to basic socio-economic services, and a
sense of security. These groups did not necessarily challenge or attack the state – as smaller, violent
Islamist organizations had done in countries like Egypt, Syria and Algeria – but rather they built
infrastructures of mobilization and services that existed parallel to the state, and often drew on state
resources to serve their constituents. The Mashreq was full of such groups that quickly reasserted
themselves during the post-1986 liberalization years.
The end of the Cold War ushered in a period in the MENA region that saw several different
forces interacting and coexisting, but often uneasily: authoritarian or autocratic states, indigenous
democracy movements, foreign governments advocating both democracy and security, Islamist
mass movements, more narrowly-based ethnic, tribal and sectarian groups (Kurds, Druze, Shiites,
Christians, etc.), and the forces of economic globalization. These dynamics pushed and pulled soci-
ety in different directions, sometimes fostering liberalization and efficiency, sometimes promoting
conservatism and illiberal political values.
Reform prospects in the Mashreq today, consequently, must be gauged within the context of an
increasingly intense ideological struggle that sometimes spills over into armed conflict, and is mani-
fested at local, regional and international levels. From the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 to 9/11
and the subsequent “global war on terror”, three broad forces have come to dominate the Mashreq
region, and today define the constrained space for democratic reforms: a) the affirmation of strong,
centrally-controlled Arab security states (Syria, Iraq, Jordan); b) the growth and assertion of sub-
state religious, ethnic and sectarian groups (mainstream Islamists like the Moslem Brotherhood and
Hamas, sectarian-Islamists like Shiite Hizbullah, tribalists, and ethno-nationalists like the Kurds in
Iraq and Syria, or the Druze in Lebanon); and, c) the penetration and spread throughout the region
of foreign interests and ideologies, including invading armies, democracy-promotion efforts, and
the forces of cultural and economic globalization.
The main protagonists — Arab security states, sub-state groups, and foreign powers — are now
locked in power struggle that often verges into the existential, and thus has overwhelmed any seri-
ous discussion of democratic reforms. The particularly problematic role of leading foreign actors in
the war in Iraq, pressuring Iran and Syria, allowing Israel to persist in its attacks against Lebanon
in the 2006 summer war, and boycotting and sanctioning Hamas after its democratic election vic-
tory has further discredited foreign democracy advocates, and severely marginalized many indig-
enous forces working for reform.
The single biggest constraint to democratic reform and the rule of law in the Mashreq today is
the state of war, civil strife or persistent tensions that plague most societies. Democratic reforms
are a low priority demand for citizens more concerned with assuring their family’s basic needs, in
terms of security, jobs, income, and social services. Centrally-controlled states like Syria and Jordan
exploit this dichotomy of democracy vs. stability, arguing that order and security are the number
one priority, and therefore democratic reforms can wait for better days. A silent majority of citizens
seems to go along with this, whether out of conviction or fear of opposing the state.
Another formidable obstacle to democratic reform throughout the Mashreq is that states that con –
tain and retard democratization do so by using the power of the law and the constitution, which
ruling elites adjust and interpret to meet their needs. Thus human rights advocates or severe regime
critics are arrested and sent to security court in Syria and Jordan on the basis of existing laws. Many
such laws – in most Arab countries – include vague provisions against “harming state interests”,
“undermining the Constitution”, “fomenting national discord” or “insulting” state leaders. Some
countries have taken advantage of the “global war on terror” to introduce new security-related
prohibitions that can be abused by the executive, judicial and security branches of government to
curtail civil and political rights.
International human rights organizations and indigenous activists alike, for example, charge Syria
with abusing its security laws to arrest and jail human rights activists whose activities mainly consist
of issuing statements and speaking out for greater political freedoms. The past year has seen several
prominent Syrian activists arrested, convicted and imprisoned for periods of three to twelve years,
including Kamal al-Labwani, Anwar al-Bunni, Michel Kilo and Mahmoud Issa, some of whom
signed the Beirut-Damascus Declaration asking for greater Lebanese freedom from Syrian control
or influence. The government constrains the activities of civil society and human rights activists by
using existing emergency laws and other legislation that allows it to control political activities, such
as the requirement that all civil society groups obtain government approval through a registration
process. Because judicial agencies tend to be directly controlled by the executive branch, democ-
racy and reform activists have little chance to seek the protection of the law, and at the same time
the state argues that it is implementing the law and preserving law and order by arresting activists
who operate outside of the state’s purview.
A similar situation pertains in Jordan, where recalcitrant MPs or other activists who speak out
forcefully against the state or make accusations against specific officials can find themselves arrest –
ed and indicted for offenses that are anchored in very vaguely defined laws. The former MP Ahmad
Oweidi Abbadi was the latest to suffer this fate in Jordan, when he was arrested then convicted in a
state security court, after being charged with belonging to an illegal movement (the Jordanian Na –
tional Movement), “harming the state’s dignity” and illegally distributing political leaflets. Newspa -pers occasionally are banned in Jordan (Al Majd suffered this fate a few times in the past year), and
at one point security officers confiscated a Jazeera TV tape of an interview with Prince Hassan to
prevent it from being broadcasted.
These kinds of heavy-handed actions by the state are routinely taken only against targeted individu
als or organizations, and seem designed to set the tone for permissible political activism across the
board. The demonstration effect of such measures tends to send a chill down the spine of others in
society who might be inclined to express their views or organize politically. Many potential politi-
cal activists become intimidated, and therefore are discouraged from entering the political arena in
opposition to the state. This kind of power structure where the state defines the limits of acceptable
political behavior is maintained by a parallel system of elections at the local and national levels.
The electoral processes in the Mashreq reflect a very diverse set of conditions. There is some cred –
ible contestation of power in Lebanon and Palestine, where, unusually for the Mashreq, one is not
always able to predict election outcomes ahead of time. In Iraq, electoral systems are in the early
stages of their creation, yet citizens vote as much on tribal and sectarian grounds as they do on
the basis of political ideology. (Some electoral laws and constitutional systems, including Lebanon
and Iraq, actually promote sectarian and confessional voting, though civil society groups in both
countries have actively called for non-sectarian electoral systems that can promote a meritocracy.
Lebanon’s Taif accord at the end of the civil war in 1989 actually signaled a consensus desire to
move towards a non-sectarian, non-confessional political structure, but no progress has been made
in that direction other perhaps than the 2006 political understanding between Michael Aoun’s
largely Christian Free Patriotic Movement and the Shiite movement Hizbullah).
Syria and Jordan hold elections that predictably always result in a majority win for the pro-govern –
ment forces or the ruling government party in Syria’s case. Expectations of electoral reform and
greater political party pluralism in Syria in 2006-07 did not materialize, leaving the ruling Baath
Party structurally in command with its constitutionally-mandated majority in parliament along
with its partners in the National Progressive Front. The main Syrian opposition groups boycotted
the elections, giving the vote even less credence than it might have enjoyed otherwise. The referen –
dum on the second term for President Bashar Assad predictably resulted in his being approved by
an overwhelming 97.6% of voters. The promise and expectation of reform in Syria remain confined
to greater economic openness and competition, with limited administrative changes, and no major
legal or political changes of consequence.
Jordan is a more mixed picture. It has made important changes in recent years in the econom –
ic, administrative and regulatory sectors, significantly increasing efficiency of some state services
through privatization or government-mandated administrative reform. Some sectors, like telecom –
munications and transport, are largely in private hands, with the government playing a regulatory
Yet these changes have not been matched by political reforms. Jordan suffers the common Arab
weakness of an electoral system that is managed by the state and designed to return a docile or pro-
government majority in national elections. Consequently, the largest opposition group, the Islamic
Action Front, intermittently boycotts municipal or parliamentary elections, because it does not see
them as truly free and fair. The biggest weakness in the parliamentary elections is the gerrymander –
ing of the electoral districts, which ensure the opposition gets no more than 20 percent of the elected
lower house seats. The flagrant imbalance in the districts means that voters/seat in the capital Am –
man and some rural areas vary by a ratio as wide as 9/1. The Amman-Zerqa region is woefully
underrepresented in parliament and the Bedouin-majority rural regions are overrepresented, thus
ensuring that pro-government MPs dominate and Islamist, pro-Palestinian, leftist, or Arab nation –
alist MPs are a permanently contained minority.
With regimes in such direct, complete control of executive, legislative and judicial sectors of govern-
ment, backed by robust and efficient security systems, there is virtually no room for democracy ac-
tivists to ply their trade, let alone achieve a breakthrough. A few reform-minded organizations and
individuals briefly held out the hope in 2006-07 that some reforms might be initiated from above,
by the ruling regimes themselves. War-wracked Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq had no chance to at –
tempt this approach, but Syria and Jordan did, and they both decided against it in the end. Syrian
expectations of a more open political system that included a free press and a truly competitive party
system were dashed in 2007, when state-sponsored reforms were restricted to the administrative,
educational, and economic sectors.
The biggest reform-related disappointment in the past few years, though, was the quiet shelving of
the Jordanian National Agenda that had been painstakingly compiled and widely trumpeted as a
comprehensive, integrated and deep reform agenda that cut across political, economic, social, edu –
cational and administrative lines. It included potentially path-breaking reforms of parliamentary
elections that would have reduced the existing disparities in representation across geographic and
ideological groups, and introduced proportional representation. The prevalent sense in Jordan is
that conservative vested interests in the final analysis put pressure on the king and government to
slow down the political reform process, which threatened to spur a real redistribution of power in
Disappointing as was the apparent shelving of the National Agenda, the document and the politi –
cal impetus behind it were fascinating for what they revealed about the perception by the king and
his small band of reform-minded aides that radical change was needed to address Jordan’s chronic
constraints, especially the imbalance between population and economic growth. The fact that they
defined and started to promulgate such an ambitious reform agenda is a hopeful sign that at least
the awareness of the need for comprehensive change exists within some quarters of the ruling elite
in the Mashreq, and other parts of the Arab world. Because of its depth and breadth, it is worth
noting in more detail.
The agenda’s stated aim was “to achieve sustainable development through a transformation pro –
gram that puts Jordan on a trajectory path toward fast economic growth and greater social inclu –
sion, resulting in comprehensive strategies and initiatives developed to realize social, economic and
political development, evaluate and monitor progress of its implementation according to detailed
It was presented as different from previous failed or limited reform efforts because of its wide scope,
and linked implementation and monitoring mechanisms. Those aimed to achieve a set of ambitious
// Enhance public participation in the decision making process and strengthening the role of the
civil society institutions;
// Guarantee the rule of law and independence of the judiciary;
// Safeguard public safety and national security in accordance with articles of the Constitution;
// Build trust between citizens and institutions and adopt principles of transparency, good
governance and accountability;
// Strengthen principles of social justice and equal opportunity;
// Develop human and economic resources, upgrade the production base and expand
These ambitious policy initiatives were encapsulated in three main spheres of action:
1. Government structures and policy reforms intended to contribute to the stimulation
of economic development and the improvement of social welfare and security.
2. Basic rights and freedoms, including reforms designed to enhance freedom, equality, and ac- cess in the fields of religious, political, cultural, social, property, information, citizenship and legal
3. Services, infrastructure and economic reforms related to the transportation, water, energy, envi-
ronment Information and Communications Technology, healthcare, manufacturing and financial
The ten-year National Agenda technically still drives state reform plans, but in practice it has been
replaced by yet another palace-driven mobilization process called “All for Jordan”, similar to the
“Jordan First” initiative that was launched half a decade ago. Jordan in this respect mirrors the
wider complexities and contradictions that define the Mashreq, where reform and regression are
both driven simultaneously by a galaxy of conservative, security, progressive, democratic, foreign
and indigenous groups. The state’s attempts to appease all these competing but contradictory forces
usually leads to the prevailing situation where reforms are robust and impressive in economic and
administrative spheres, but symbolic or nonexistent in the political arena.
Scores and realities
Not surprisingly, perhaps, in view of the Jordanian leadership’s recognition of the need for com
prehensive reform, Jordan ranked first among the eight Arab countries surveyed by ARI for this
report on the basis of the averaged index of all indicators, though in some categories others ranked
higher than it. The three Mashreq countries included in the Arab Democracy Index survey – Jor –
dan, Lebanon and Palestine – all showed significant swings in their democratic norms, institutions
and practices. This reflects two phenomena that are common throughout the region: 1) legal and
constitutional safeguards and rights tend be impressive on paper, but are not always matched by
implementation on the ground, and, 2) enforcement of citizen rights and legal safeguards varies
widely according to the political environment and the personalities in power.
This is why, for example, Jordan’s political and media system liberalized rapidly in the period
1989-1994, but tightened up again after the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace agreement and the post-9/11
focus on fighting terrorism. Syria’s situation similarly swings widely, from greater tolerance of re –
form-minded statements and meetings by dissidents, to abrupt jailing of some of the leaders of de –
mocracy and reform movements.
Lebanon and Palestine are the most intriguing cases for the assessment of reform forces in the
Mashreq, given their combination of occasional warfare on the ground, persistent domestic politi-
cal tensions and ideological confrontations, strong civil societies and democracy advocates, and rel –
atively meaningful elections whose winners are not necessarily pre-programmed and predictable.
War and political tensions push democracy towards the bottom of people’s priorities; yet there is
also a growing acknowledgement in society that a lack of both sovereignty and democracy accounts
for the violence and instability that wrack these societies. Intrusive Western involvement in these
countries is a complicating factor in the reform equation; it promotes democratic reforms on the
one hand, yet it also sides with one party against the opposition, thus fomenting greater strife and
denigration of constitutional institutions, on the other. The temporary immobilization or collapse
of constitutional and democratic structures in Lebanon and Palestine has seen the political vacuum
quickly replaced by a constellation of forces: militias and other ad hoc local armed factions; new in –
formal venues for political leaders to meet under third party mediation (e.g., Mecca, Paris); foreign
money, arms and diplomatic support; and local community groups and NGOs. This fragmentation
of an integrated national political system into diverse and increasingly localized elements augurs
badly for national political reform in the short run. Yet it may have a silver lining: when dysfunc-
tional governance and security chaos run their course, and citizens in the Mashreq seize hold of
their societies and try to rebuild them, they are likely to demand more transparent, equitable and
accountable governance structures as the bedrock of democratic systems.
The Arab Democracy Index (ADI) compiled for this report provides intriguing new data that gen-
erally complements and confirms the overall trends that are outlined in the qualitative analyses.
Several significant aspects of the indicators should be noted, the most glaring of which is the gen –
erally low ranking of the surveyed Arab countries. The three Mashreq states surveyed : Jordan,
Palestine and Lebanon ; reflect the prevailing trends of the entire Mashreq region: sharp disparities
in rankings, inconsistencies within and between countries, and a significant gap between written
guarantees of democracy and human rights, on the one hand, and actual practices and conditions,
on the other.
The nearly 100 percent differential between means and practices for all surveyed Arab countries
(751/393) is mirrored in the Mashreq states, though Jordan shows the smallest gap. This in turn re –
flects one of the consistent findings of the index: Jordan’s relatively high ranking in most indicators,
giving it the number one overall rank. (It is followed by Morocco in second place, perhaps reflecting
factors such as the relative legitimacy that the ruling families in these monarchies enjoy, their sense
of accountability to their citizens, and their strong focus on security as the bedrock of state security
and regime incumbency). The three Mashreq states, however, come in above the average for the
entire Arab region (550 vs. 498), which may signal the strength and depth of some of their people’s
struggles for good governance, despite the ravages of war, instability and regional shocks in all three
Perhaps the most telling aspect of the index (and certainly the most politically operative) is the gap
between means and practices. The Mashreq states score high in freedom of speech and assembly
and the right to form political parties and human rights groups. Yet they mostly score low in cor –
ruption, wasta, detention without charge, and use of security courts. These trends are also visible
throughout the rest of the Mashreq, where political life is defined by the following consistent reali-
ties: constitutional and legal guarantees of political freedoms and individual rights are pervasive
and often impressive on paper, but they are offset by inconsistent application of the law by executive
and policy authorities that are able to bend the law according to their interpretation of prevail –
ing political challenges and security threats. Arab citizens in the Mashreq generally have enjoyed
greater opportunities for freedom of expression and assembly in recent years, but this is where de –
mocratization tends to stop. Political parties, human rights organizations, opposition views in the
press, and civil society organizations are all more common today, but in no significant case have
they caused a government to change a substantive policy. These Arab citizens increasingly enjoy the
form of democratic expression, without the substance. Nowhere in the Mashreq are sovereignty and
policy-making authority fully vested in the citizenry through credible mechanisms of representation
Another important aspect of these indices is that they capture a moment frozen in time, while in
reality they vary sharply over time. In Syria, for example, freedom of expression and assembly was
much higher in the immediate aftermath of the incumbency of President Bashar Assad than it is
today, while in Jordan political pluralism was much more vigorous in the period 1989-1993 than it
has been since the Jordan-Israel peace accord of 1994. Conditions in Iraq and Palestine vary with
every passing month due to ongoing armed conflicts, occupation and resistance, while Lebanon
remains hostage to domestic, regional and international forces that make rule of law guarantees and
procedures wildly erratic in practice, depending on the political alliances and vagaries of the day.
The data generated by ARI’s recent surveys around the Arab world suggest that public opinion
yearns for democratic reform, but is skeptical that current political elites are capable of achieving it.
Many other previous surveys throughout the region indicate that Arab nationals are clearly com –
mitted to values of democracy, pluralism, justice, equality, the rule of law and accountability, but
they also place high emphasis – perhaps even greater priority these days – on enjoying liberty from
foreign occupation and true sovereignty that is not compromised by invading foreign armies.
* Director, Centre d’Études et de Recherches en Sciences Sociales, Rabat University
Types of regimes
For a long time, old stereotypes were used to classify and depict Arab realities such as, for example,
the distinctions between republics and monarchies, republican principalities and hereditary repub-
lics, and between progressive and reactionary, moderate and revolutionary, civilian and military,
and liberal and socialist regimes.
These typologies are out of date. A more relevant approach is to look at the relationship between
democracy as a norm and democratization as a process, i.e. to measure the prevailing situation in
terms of proximity to, or compatibility and contradiction with this political system, and it is on this
basis that countries in the Arab world are categorized.
Here, we can distinguish at least five case groups: using the status quo as a departure point for the
“democratic” transformation, to measure both the extent of progress towards it, and level of com –
patibility with it :
We could name Morocco, Jordan, Mauritania, Kuwait, and even Bahrain, as countries with condi –
tions that allow this kind of comparison and contrasting.
Adding to the democratisation challenge, Mauritania and Yemen face a national integration chal –
Another group of countries represents a more complex transformation process, involving the po –
litical, institutional and cultural dimensions, the shape of the political system and an abundance
of financial resources. In this group, which includes Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and
Oman, reform is devoid of a political component and the economy colours every other dimension.
A fourth group of countries is still at the stage of addressing, to varying degrees, the nature of
change itself, (Saudi Arabia, Syria, Algeria, Yemen, Libya, Egypt and Tunisia); however, though
this characterizes to a large extent the nature of reform in these countries, they also display a
stable form of despotism. Many of these regimes succeeded in appearing as if in the middle of a
reform process without, however, offering any concessions in favour of democracy. This is how the
“Damascus Spring” of 2000-2001 succeeded, early in Bashar al-Assad’s rule, in giving exactly this
impression in the first few weeks. In the same vein, Saudi Arabia and Egypt responded to the “im –
ported” American reform initiative by underlining the principle of reforms from within.
Finally in the case of Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and Sudan, questions arise regarding both, the stra –
tegic dimensions and those related to international policies, regional equilibrium, and special state
institutions with a religious, ethnic or tribal character.
The political systems in the Maghreb region
When one reads various texts and constitutional provisions and does a purely legalistic analysis, the
initial impression is that the methodology they are based on is firmly rooted in technical legislative and legal approaches. In reality, they are based on a pro-forma methodology incapable of providing
even a mere evaluation of intentions regarding reform. However, despite this fact, extreme formal
ism is not entirely irrelevant. Reviewing behaviour with an eye on the law, and monitoring institu –
tions, is a necessary exercise.
The separation of powers seems, to a certain extent, to be real, though sometimes, it is just a figment
of the imagination. The overwhelming powers with which the head of state is endowed indicate
the presence of a structural deficiency in the distribution of power. Beyond that, the democratic
principle becomes firmly rooted, in some cases, through the constitution and through legislative
and administrative texts, while in other cases it seems to be rooted in contradiction. Is standard co –
hesion a guarantee for a good application of democracy? Do rare constitutional violations indicate
that? Questions continue to be asked in Morocco for example, not only regarding legitimacy and
legality, but also with respect to the effectiveness of public institutions. Another key set of questions
are ones related to the independence of the judiciary. The political reform issue elicits similar reac-
tions among public opinion, though considerable differences appear when examining the quality of
implementation, i.e. the actual practices.
While regimes in the Maghreb seem quite capable of holding regular elections, their regularity may
have no bearing on the democratic status of the concerned regime. The latter could, when their
own credibility is too weak to ensure the transparency of the elections, raise their credibility level
by forming local monitoring commissions, and invite others from abroad. In this respect, Morocco’s
example proved that despite the numerous flaws in the electoral process, the government was able
to project the image of democratic elections.
The reader can measure these regimes’ levels of tolerance, based on the formal status of individual
freedoms in each country, including the right to form political parties, the rights of assembly, dem –
onstration and opposition, the possibility of criticizing the authorities and openly pointing the finger
of blame at them.
Holding the government accountable in Morocco for example, has become such a usual occurrence
that it is almost a matter of routine. Questions from MPs to ministers reached 4616 as in one year
the Index shows while in Algeria, this practice remains much more limited (22 in one year). Apart
from the dissolution of the Algerian National Assembly in 1992, no noticeable incidents, by any
regime in the Maghreb, could be construed as an obstruction of an elected body.
However, the Index does not show the important linkages that determine realities on the ground.
Looking at the issue of corruption in isolation of other factors is not enough to form an opinion re –
garding the implementation of the rule of law. It should be seen, rather, within the context of other
elements, such as the right to a fair trial, resorting to exceptional laws to combat terrorism; torture,
the treatment of detainees, intervention by the security forces to prevent certain appointments, and
the citizens’ sense of personal safety.
The Maghreb’s particular characteristics and its countries’ readiness to introduce reform are not
only in evidence in indicators relevant to institutional, administrative or political domains, or to
political behaviour, per se, but to a more comprehensive approach that includes, among other, the
status of women and the management of social issues. The status of women in the Maghreb has
witnessed uneven improvement: Morocco has reconsidered its laws regarding women with an eye
on greater equality within the personal status law, while in Algeria, civil status laws have yet to be
amended, and the ratio of women in the labour force remains below that of Morocco.
Public services in the Maghreb region are based partly on clientelism, and partly on wasta (nepo –
tism and favouritism) as far as public sector appointments are concerned. Moreover, social security
is still limited (funds allocated to this sector are higher in Algeria, though democratic control over
social security budgets vary in degree from one country to the other). In the final analysis, the qual –
Political reform in the arab world
the maghreb scene
Abdallah Saaf *Political reform in the arab world
the maghreb scene
ity of the management of social sector allocations (education, health, housing and labour) should be
diligently reviewed beyond measuring the mere amounts earmarked. Figures regarding budgetary
allocations to the security sector are not available on Morocco to enable us to compare them to
those earmarked for the social sector, though figures posted by Algeria show that allocations for
security related matters are higher than those for social issues.
No doubt, the international factor plays a more important role in political reform in the Arab region
than in other regions of the world, since it intersects with all Middle Eastern related issues. Coun-
tries like Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and Sudan, for example, are in effect laboratories for the inter –
national order, and a yardstick for measuring the balance of power, and its effectiveness, through
interventions in the name of democracy and respect for human rights. The United States and the
European Union define their attitude towards reform from the perspective of issues relevant to rela –
tions with Iran, Turkey or Israel which have little to do with the objective of promoting democracy.
While countries of the South are undertaking reforms of a more or less significant character, they
bear the impact of trans-sectoral, cross-border and obscure actors, like al-Qaeda, (exploited by the
United States to maximum effect), who discredit reform by rendering it violent, and colouring it
with tragedy and rejection.
In this context, any analysis needs to integrate the element of the unknown, linked to the awareness
by countries in the region of threats and dangers from potential enemies, both internal and exter –
nal. Regimes are required to reform while seen internationally as a threat themselves, and being
suspected of replenishing the sources of terrorism. Murky attitudes vis-à-vis regimes in power are,
however, no less important; it is by no coincidence that countries in the region have put at the top of
their agendas the need to come to term with this fact, once they realised America’s intentions before,
during and after the invasion of Iraq, a realization wrought by speeches and actions. The American
new state-building machine is leaving a negative impact on the region, as a whole, especially given
its looming failure. Through careful monitoring of several countries in the region, one can identify
three different types of reactions that first appeared rather imprecise, then crystallized and became
clearly-defined. These are: 1/various forms of tactically accepting US unilateralism and flirting
with American reform initiatives, 2/ transient submission in the expectation of better times ahead,
and 3/ various forms of resistance through over-zealous or pre-emptive reform initiatives.
For those concerned, the issue of reform has a lot to do with the protagonists’ loyalties. In each
existing regime, depending on their type, legitimacy, social structure (theocracy, extension of the
progressive regimes of the 1950’s, oil kingdoms and sheikhdoms, or a sectarian or tribal state…)
reform takes on a different form.
The presence of many stakeholders has its own important characteristics, whether they operate in
a context of some kind of pluralism, or consensus, or whether some agreement among religious and
non-religious opposition groups of uneven influence exists. In the meantime, other well-organised
stakeholders, like the army, remain part of the scene.
On the other hand, various methods of reform are being experimented: either constitutional texts
are newly available to political players who did not have them before, or existing constitutional texts
are revised and extended to encompass new laws related to the political field, or elections are held
as a point of departure for the reform process.
Moreover, social movements occupy an important position in countries like Morocco, Egypt, Leba –
non and Mauritania, where civil society asserted its presence on the scene, and was often successful in playing a prominent role in the reform process, not to mention the very important role of the
The present analysis faces two major challenges that raise a number of questions: first, the continu
ing and unresolved discussion as to whether economic development should precede democratisa –
tion, even liberalisation and reform; second, the issue of the relationship between Islamisation and
In economics, early on in the process, the economy is dependent on politics until the reverse hap –
pens, and politics become dependent on economics. The outcome of this equation, however, is not
very convincing given the nature of Arab regimes in power, to the point that they feel compelled to
intervene in the economic sphere, with a number of them getting suddenly involved in social and
economic reforms (not only in Morocco, but also in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan). The fact that
these countries feel compelled to link the social and the economic reveals the gap between the two
domains. In this part of the world, each of these spheres has developed separately from the other,
which explains why economic success in the Gulf region did not have any impact on domestic poli-
Secondly, the current debate regarding the meaning of democracy and democratisation is fraught
with ambiguity as it implicitly poses the largely rhetorical question about the compatibility between
Islamic values and democracy. The question, once again, is whether the Islamists should be recog –
nised as a full player in competitive internal politics, and whether we should espouse democracy, no
matter how high the price can be. Are the Islamists themselves ready and willing to accept the rules
and principles of democracy without reservation? Each party provides different answers to these
questions according to its own priorities, beliefs and ideological positions. And in each local context
certain angles are emphasized more than others.
The formulation of a joint position is still a matter of wishful thinking; on the political level, democ-
racy in the Arab countries requires the Islamists to accept the democratic rules of the game, a politi-
cal game based on genuine pluralism. On the cultural level, democracy requires the development
of political values and their compatibility with liberal principles, which leads us necessarily to two
basic options,: 1/a secularization of religion, following the Turkish model, linked to diligent efforts
to reconcile secularism with Islamic values through political action, or 2/ the introduction of reli-
gious reforms, already the object of intense debate in the Middle East, involving the need to forge a
link between Islam and Western values, based on a progressive reinterpretation of religious texts.
Different visions of potential developments range between propositions that insist on the possibility
of returning to the past – as much as the status quo seems impossible to maintain, or status quo with
some superficial cosmetic modifications on the form, rather than the content – and propositions that
foresee a perfect democratic transition.
One scenario that can be safely ruled out as outright unrealistic, for the time being, is that of a
democratic authority ready to makes all the necessary concessions to the country’s political and
social forces that call for an immediate, and total form of democracy, by instituting a real separa –
tion of powers, transparent elections that usher in an era of good governance, and promoting the
rule of law.
A more reasonable scenario might be gradual and exponential reforms, of varying levels of im –
portance, in the economic, socio-political, even cultural domains, imposed by those concerned
as a result of internal and external pressure. This scenario could be carried forward by a series of
limited initiatives and be steadily promoted, since the Arab world as a whole has plenty of such
“small reform” examples to build on. Another scenario could consist of middle-ground reforms in
the social field (to improve the family, education and health laws, etc.), while a large scale reform
programme could address key political issues such as the separation of powers, political parties and
Context and scenarios
These scenarios will however, depend on the specific requirements of each political context, accord-
ing to the typology defined above.
As far as the first category is concerned, and regarding the two above-mentioned propositions, i.e.,
middle-ground reforms vs. a democratic transition, and given the difficulties associated with any
return to the past, the ideal solutions seems to lie in continuing the process or consolidating reforms
already introduced. Indeed, if we reverted to the past, we will not be able to control movements go –
ing in different directions, and the risk for deviation is high.
The shape and content of consolidation depends on the level of effective control of society by the
state. In Morocco, the authorities have a long experience of managing the liberalisation process:
they learnt from the way they attended to the freedoms issue and have tried to improve their man –
agement of other issues. It seems that Jordan is going through a similar experience, the difference
being that the struggle with the opposition seems more severe there. It also seems that the ability to
draw red lines and impose respect for them is gaining particular importance.
In the second category, we find countries like Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Syria, Egypt and Algeria shar –
ing common characteristics that revolve around the personification of power, weak institutions and
limited, if not totally absent, individual freedoms.
While Saudi Arabia differs from the rest by having both a despotic regime and a prosperous state
that is in open confrontation with the Islamists, Tunisia has a security-oriented regime in search
of a prosperity state, and operating in the shadow of a limited pluralistic system. In Algeria, while
power is also personified, it remains in open confrontation with the Islamists, and in Egypt, the very
real monopoly of power is concealed behind a façade of imaginary pluralism, which demonstrates
the importance of a relationship based on trust in institutions.
The third group of countries brings together states like Qatar, the UAE and Oman whose systems
live to the tempo of building a liberal economy, and which, due to the importance of their financial
resources, cannot but clash eventually with the traditional political systems, as they stand today.
Would neutralising the state economically not lead to its political neutrality, as well? How can com –
petition in the political domain be brought about? The process of fostering new democracies, like
those of Japan and North Korea, seems easier in this case under the present circumstances.
In the fourth group, comprising Yemen and Mauritania, and regardless of the difference between
the two, political reform is subject to the predominant issues of national integration (related to eth –
nic, tribal and representation issues), distribution of resources and the threat from Islamisation.
The fifth group comprises countries in crisis with potential international repercussions (Palestine,
Iraq, Lebanon and Sudan), where local political actors do not hide their relations with the outside
world. These countries are mainly characterized by the fact that they respond to international
In all the above cases, it seems that political reform needs to pass through a controlled transition
phase, managed by a contractual agreement in order to pass successfully the inevitably turbulent
stages while avoiding any deviation from the charted course, as happened in Algeria in the early 1990s. The dangers of absolute democracy are real and the process might require the imposition of
a set of rules that govern the holding of controlled and guided elections. Such a process would allow
the development of a form of pluralism reached through negotiations, and delineate a calculated
and accepted disequilibrium in favour of the ruling authority, until the latter succeeds in establish
ing itself within the context of a more open democratic atmosphere. It might be necessary for the
state to remain strong in order for the democratic transition to succeed; the other side of the coin
remains in society’s hands, i.e., linked to the degree of its democratic maturity.
On the other hand, such a process remains dependent on the existing political situation and the
ability of both the state and society to mitigate radicalism, specifically the use of physical and sym –
Where to start
There are different entry points to initiating a genuine process of reform, such as:
– Introducing constitutional reforms such as the adoption of new constitutions, or constitutional
measures, and re-examining existing ones when necessary.
– Reviewing the status of the Law, expanding freedoms, building the rule of law, liberalising the
rules of the political game and drafting conciliatory charters related to vital social sectors.
– Drafting legislation that strengthens the role of various political actors, especially political
parties and civil society in politically weak societies, and fostering citizen participation in the
– Organizing elections to increase the cohesiveness and depth of political life, at the level of the
electoral and representation systems, as well as the level of participation and follow-up that elec-
tion results suggest (in terms of the formation of a parliamentary majority and the formation of
– Promoting good governance, in general: public policy, especially in the justice, education and
administrative sectors, and introducing some integrity into public life.
– Shifting from a concept of national security based on secrecy, to a human-oriented concept
(where the individual feels first, and foremost, safe), and adopting a national security system
that operates under democratic supervision and civilian oversight.
Measures, technologies and tools
Experiences underway in different parts of the world suggest a number of practical applications and
concrete measures. Among those are: – Implementing a comprehensive scheme of constitutional and institutional change by pro –
moting respect for procedural aspects and focusing on technical details that transcend the
ideological framework of constitutional texts, whereby the reaffirmation of principles through
pompous speeches becomes no longer necessary, and attention is centred on technical and legal
– Resorting to contractual arrangements and various forms of consensus building mechanisms
(charters, agreements and mutually agreed codes of conduct), at the macro or micro level, to
build the necessary support for measures by ensuring the widest participation possible, and
deepen the process by raising the interest and awareness of ordinary citizens.
– Rooting the importance of elections and their regularity, seeking higher levels of competition
and representation, simplifying procedures to allow the widest participation possible and refin –
ing the various forms of representation with a view to enhance the credibility of the electoral
process. This will confer legitimacy to the public consultation processes, especially if they are
linked to institutional results like the choice of the Prime Minister, the formation of the govern –
ment and the building of political alliances.
– Ensuring that participatory mechanisms are put in place, and implemented in the decision-
making process: informing, consulting, allowing public debates and negotiating.
– Enhancing democratic control over a number of key sectors, especially the security sector, and
transcending the formal debates within parliamentary and specialized committees, relevant
to the defence and security budgets. Parliamentarians are usually anxious to avoid debating
security-related matters, under the pretext that the subject has to do with existential national
issues that should, by necessity, be the object of a consensus. A transparent administration of
the security budget should be promoted, as well as relevant evaluations and accountability.
– Shifting from a religion-based state to a state where religion is administered through concrete
public policies: allocating sites for religious observances and appointing officials specifically
charged with overseeing religious matters.
– Protecting minorities by introducing the appropriate institutional and legal measures.
We suggest that reform processes in the Arab world concentrate their efforts primarily on
improving the performance of their respective political systems. This means the need to con-
centrate, first, on strengthening public institutions; second, on promoting the monitoring role
of parliaments and human rights organisations, and third, on steering public spending towards
allocating larger budgets to social sectors like health and education.
We also suggest that reform processes concentrate on strengthening public institutions rel –
evant to the institution of the rule of law through systems of accountability, monitoring the per –
formance of the security services, and abolishing military tribunals and state security courts.
Finally, it is important for the reform process to focus on matters related to education, given
their high priority and high returns on equality and social justice. This should be done by fight –
ing illiteracy, reducing school dropouts and improving educational standards and conditions,
especially for girls.
Although Jordan appears as the most successful of the selected Arab countries in terms of
progress towards democratic transition, certain key aspect of the process suffer tangible
weaknesses. We therefore suggest the following to the government and lawmakers of Jor –
– Consider the abolition of state security courts, abolish or considerably reduce censor –
ship on publications and internet sites, monitor the security services and hold them ac –
countable, to prevent the ill-treatment of detainees.
– Uphold merit as the only criterion for public sector employment, combat corruption in
public institutions, increase the health and education budgets, and put more effort into
the fight against illiteracy, especially among women.
Algeria appears to have great difficulty instituting the rule of law, not at the level of promulgat –
ing laws, but in terms of their practical implementation; we therefore suggest the following to
those concerned with the reform process in Algeria: – Concentrate on strengthening public institutions by promoting parliament’s role in
holding the government and presidency accountable, bolster the public services by
upholding merit as the main criterion for public employment, and the adoption of anti-
corruption policies and programmes.
– Abolish military and special tribunals, end arbitrary arrests, allow human right organi –
sations a wider range of activities and strengthen the role of the civilian police in ensur –
ing the personal safety of citizens.
– Reconsider the level of government spending on health and education, find ways to
reduce school dropouts and exert more effort in fighting illiteracy, especially among
The results of the Arab Democracy Index for 2008 indicate the presence of embryonic stirrings
in favour of democratisation in most Arab countries covered by the survey. In the Mashreq
countries, the Index reveals unexpected progress in the constitutional and legal domains,
manifested in two principal values, the rule of law and respect for rights and freedoms. Both
these principles received a score above 700, which we considered the cut-off point between a
tendency towards democracy, and real progress in the democratisation process, i.e., the tools
(means) that allow a transition to take place. There were very encouraging signs in Morocco,
which obtained the top score for means in the area of equality and social justice. There were
also encouraging signs from Egypt, which scored highest for means relevant to the respect
for rights and freedoms, from Palestine, which obtained the top score for means relevant to
the rule of law and strong and accountable public institutions, and from Jordan, for the rule of
On the other hand, the survey revealed abject failure in practices relevant to a democratic
transition; the overall score for practices remained under the cut-off level (400), i.e., hover
ing between the absence of democratic stirrings and a certain tendency towards democratic
transition, a situation that particularly applies to Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. The
democratic transition process also appears to have failed as far as the people’s trust in the
performance of public institutions is concerned, since there is near total consensus regarding
the widespread use of wasta (favouritism and nepotism) in public sector appointments, and
widespread corruption in public institutions. Failure is also apparent in the mistreatment of
the opposition, ill-treatment of detainees, arbitrary detentions, the use of military tribunals or
state security courts, and exaggerated public spending on security at the expense of health
The aim of the following recommendations is to draw the attention to both successful and un –
successful aspects of the democratic transition process. The general recommendations are a
call to those involved in the reform process, in the Arab world, to concentrate their efforts on
shortcomings in most, if not all, Arab countries. The specific recommendations, on the other
hand, address those involved in the reform process in individual countries, and call upon them
to concentrate their efforts on areas that this report has found lacking.
Conclusion and Recommendations
// Saudi Arabia
Despite having the necessary tools to ensure the rule of law, Saudi Arabia still lacks the consti-
tutional laws and legislation needed to guarantee public accountability of public institutions,
and promote the principles of equality and social justice. We therefore propose the following
recommendations for reform in Saudi Arabia: – Focus on finding one or more ways to guarantee some sort of separation of powers,
providing a system through which the people can chose their own representatives and
institute a system by which the public could hold the executive to account and monitor
its performance. It should also concentrate on upholding merit as the only criterion for
public sector employment.
– Enact laws that allow political pluralism and the right of assembly, guarantee the rights
of detainees, allow the opposition to voice their opinions freely, grant the right to dem –
onstrate, and allow the establishment of civil society organisations that reflect different
visions, ideas and aspirations than those that currently prevail in society.
– Put an end to arbitrary detentions and allow local and international human rights organ –
isations to operate freely in the country.
– Enact legislation that ensures gender equality, as a matter of principle, fight school
dropouts and illiteracy, especially among women, and find a more equitable balance be –
tween expenditures on security and on health and education.
Palestine has advanced legislation regarding the rule of law and strong and accountable pub –
lic institutions; however, it suffers particularly from extreme weakness in the performance of
its public institutions. We therefore recommend the following to reformers in the Palestine
National Authority, (PNA): – Create a mechanism to guarantee government accountability at a time when the Legis –
lative Council is inactive. Merit should be the only criterion for employment in the public
sector and tangible steps should be taken to fight corruption. The PNA President should
stop making decisions that clearly violate the basic laws of Palestine.
– Impose stricter monitoring on the security services’ activities to prevent the ill-treat –
ment of detainees. Concerned authorities should also allow the licensing of new political
parties, even if there is so far no law regulating party activities.
– Ban arbitrary detentions or arrests without trial, and strengthen the role of the police to
better ensure the personal safety of citizens.
– Allocate larger budgets to the sectors of health and education and exert more effort in
fighting illiteracy, especially among women.
Lebanon has advanced legislation on the respect for human rights and freedoms, and has the
best record among the surveyed Arab countries as far as practices are concerned; however, it
suffers particular weakness in the area of the rule of law. We therefore propose to reformers
in Lebanon the following: – Concentrate on finding more effective means of maintaining legal accountability, espe –
cially in light of the retreating role of parliament. And take tangible steps to fight corrup –
Impose a stricter monitoring of the security services’ activities to prevent the ill-treat –
ment of detainees, end arbitrary arrests and abolish state security courts. The police
should give citizens the feeling that their personal safety is in good hands.
– Pay attention to education, especially school dropouts, and exert pressure to increase
government spending on health and education. // Egypt
Egypt has the best record among the selected countries in terms of legislation and constitu
tional guarantees, relevant to the respect of rights and freedoms; it also has the best record in
terms of legislation that sets the stage for the establishment of strong and accountable public
institutions. On the other hand, it is almost the weakest in terms of practices relevant to the
rule of law. We therefore propose to reformers in Egypt the following: – Ensure better and more effective monitoring of the executive authority to reduce op –
portunities for violating the constitution, and exert more effort in fighting corruption.
– Open the door to more freedom-oriented practices, end censorship, allow the opposi –
tion press more freedom and widen the margin for licensing political parties. The secu –
rity services should be monitored more closely to prevent the ill-treatment of detainees.
– Abolish state security courts, and end arbitrary arrests.
– Allocate larger budgets to health and education and give higher priority to issues re –
lated to education, such as illiteracy and school dropouts, especially among females.
Morocco has the best record among the selected countries in terms of legislation and con –
stitutional guarantees that ensure equality and social justice. It also has a good record on
legislation that guarantees the rule of law and strong and accountable public institutions. The
country suffers, however, from tangible weakness in certain aspects of the practices relevant
to respect for rights and freedoms. We therefore propose the following to reformers
in Morocco: – Uphold merit as the only criterion for public sector employment and exert more effort in
– Increase the monitoring of the security forces to prevent the torture and the ill-treat –
ment of detainees. The opposition should be allowed a wider margin for manoeuvre, and
the right to organise protest activities and distribute their magazines and newspapers.
– Abolish state security courts and strengthen the police to give citizens a greater sense
of personal safety.
– Pay more attention to social issues, mainly education, to reduce school dropouts and
illiteracy levels, especially among women.
Yemen has a good record in the field of legislation relevant to strong and accountable insti –
tutions and respect for rights and freedoms. However, it suffers particularly from extreme
weakness in the actual implementation of the rule of law. We therefore propose the following
to reformers in Yemen: – Institute effective tools to monitor the executive authority and ensure that it does not
violate the constitution.
– Uphold merit as the only criterion for public sector employment, and effectively combat
corruption in public institutions.
– Increase the monitoring of the security services to prevent the ill-treatment of detain –
ees, and allowing the opposition a wider margin of protest activities.
– Abolish state security courts, cease all forms of arbitrary detention and allow human
right organisations freedom of operation.
– Pay increased attention to education, such as by allocating it a larger budget and fight
school dropouts and illiteracy, especially among women.
////////////// List of Publications
ARAB REFORM BRIEFS
N°21. Egypt and the Events in Gaza : The
« Official » Solution to the Crisis
Amr el Shobaki, May 2008
N°20. Institutionalising Hereditary
Succession in Saudi Arabia’s Political
Governance System: The Allegiance
Awadh al-Badi, February 2008
N°19. The Private Sector in the Arab World
– Road Map Towards Reform
Abdulaziz Sager, December 2007
N°18. Jordan: Possibility of Transition
from Electoral Rut to a “Constitutional
Khaled Hroub, December 2007
N°17. The New Protest Movements in
Egypt: Has the Country Lost Patience?
Ahmad Baha Eddin, November 2007
N°16. Algeria May 17, 2007 Parliamentary
Elections or the Political Representation
Mohammed Hachemaoui, July 2007
N°15. Lebanon’s Future at a Crossroads
Oussama Safa, June 2007
N°14. Political Reforms and the
Reconfiguration of National Identity in
Yassin Haj Saleh, June 2007
N°13. The 18 October Coalition for Rights
and Freedom in Tunisia
Lutfi Hajji, October 2006
N°12. The Equity and Reconciliation
Committee and the Transition Process in
Mohamed Ahmed Bennis, September 2006
N°11. Hezbollah and the Lebanese State.
Reconciling a National Strategy with a
Ali Fayyad, August 2006
N°10. Electoral Reform in Lebanon. The
experience and recommendations of the
Paul Salem, July 2006
N°9. Charter for Peace and National
Reconciliation in Algeria: Threatening
Ghazi Hidouci, July 2006
N°8. Prospects for Political Reform in
Kuwait. An Analysis of Recent Events
Ali Zaid Al Zu’abi, June2006
N°7. What is Happening in Mauritania?
An Analysis of the Post-Coup Transitional
Mohammad Lemine Ould Bah, May 2006
N°6. Syria: What Reforms while Storm is
Samir el Aita, April 2006
N°5. The Palestinian Electorate: “Islamists
Are more Capable of Leading the Reform
and State Building process”
Khalil Shikaki, March 2006
N°4. Egypt’s Bewildering Parliamentary
Mohammad Abdel Salam, February 2006
N°3. Peace and Constitution in the Sudan
Haydar Ibrahim, February 2006
N°2. Presidential Elections in Egypt: Limits
of the Reform Process
Amr el Shoubaki, February 2006
N°1. The municipal Elections in Saudi
Pascal Ménoret, December 2005
N°1. Morocco 1996-2007. A Decisive
Decade of Reforms
Centre d’Etudes et de Recherche en Sciences
Sociales, February, 2008
N°2.Sudan. Between Reform and Conflict
Center for Sudanese Studies
Haydar Ibrahim, April, 2008
N°1.Security Sector Reform in the Arab
Region. Challenges to Developing an
Yezid Sayigh, December 2007
N°2.The Role of the West in Internal
Political Developments of the Arab Region
Osama Al Ghazali Harb, April 2007
////////////// Arab Member Institutes and Centers
– Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies(ACPSS), Egypt,
– Bibliotheca Alexandrina, The Arab Reform Forum, Egypt
– Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches en Sciences Sociales (CERSS), Morocco
– Center for Strategic and Future Studies (CSFS), Kuwait
– Center for Strategic Studies (CSS), Jordan
– Gulf Research Center (GRC), United Arab Emirates
– King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, Saudi Arabia
– Lebanese Center for Policy Studies (LCPS), Lebanon
– Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), Palestine
– The Sudanese Studies Centre (SSC), Sudan
////////////// International Member Institutes and Centers
– Centre for European Reform, Great Britain
– Fundación para las Relaciones Internacionales y el Dialogo Exterior (FRIDE), Spain
– European Union Institute for Security Studies
– Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP), Greece
– U.S-Middle East Project, USA