Why are there no Arab democracies?

In his latest article in the Journal of Democracy, Larry Diamond ponders why are there no Arab democracies:

The continuing absence of even a single democratic regime in the Arab world is a striking anomaly—the principal exception to the global- ization of democracy. Why is there no Arab democracy? Indeed, why is it the case that among the sixteen independent Arab states of the Middle East and coastal North Africa, Lebanon is the only one to have ever been a democracy?

Is it culture? Religion? Oil-dependence? Diamond argues that none of these factors matter.

He does point out that economic factors play into the lack of democracies in the region.  Although it has nothing to do with economic development levels – they are up to par with other democracies around the world – economic structures do matter:

In these systems, the state is large, centralized, and repressive. It may support any number of bloated bureaucracies as de facto jobs programs meant to buy political peace with government paychecks. Civil society is weak and coopted. And what passes for the market economy is severely distorted. Real entrepreneurship is scarcely evident, since most people in “business” service the state or its oil sector, or otherwise feed off government contracts or represent foreign companies.

Read the full article on the Journal of Democracy website.

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