Understanding the Causes of Arab Springs and the Political Success of Islamist Parties

In his presentation during the first session of  the 2013 ERF Annual ConferenceSamer Shehata (Georgetown University)  focused on two main elements: the causes of the Arab uprising and the rise of Islamist parties.

According to Shehata, there are multiple and intertwined causes for the Arab uprising; mainly these are economical and political causes. However, in social sciences there is a tendency to try to find a single variable to explain the Arab spring.

Shehata believes this mono-causal approach is doomed to fail. Instead, it is important to look at the economic factors, together with a series of other elements such as the ‘presidency for life’ characteristic of the Arab regimes, their hereditary plans for succession, authoritarianism corruption, poor governance. The combination of these factors created the “combustible mix” that ignited the Arab uprising.

He went on reflecting on the rise of Islamist movements. He argued that the electoral success of these movements following the Arab uprising should not be seen as a surprise: they have been around for a long time, they have been strong opposition movements to old regimes, they are deeply entrenched in society. These factors provide a good explanations of the electoral results of the Islamist movements.

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