ERF’s workshop and policy seminar on “The political economy of transformation in the ERF region” kicked off this morning. The workshop aims at discussing a number of draft papers, submitted in response to a call launched by ERF under the theme of the workshop, among authors and experts in order to improve its final output.
The ERF call for papers comes amid speculations regarding the direction the transformation process in the Arab spring countries is heading to and its final destination. Although the workshop refers in its title to ‘ERF region’, the majority of papers to be presented throughout the busy two days of October have to do more or less with Arab spring countries, with a special focus on Egypt. This morning session shedded new lights on the determinants of democracy in the Arab countries.
Sami Atallah (Lebanese Center for Policy Studies) argued that the legacy of British colonialism significantly affects contemporary political institutions and the prevailing authoritarian regimes existing in the Arab countries, particularly the Gulf ones. Looking at the importance of geostrategic routes between England and India, Hadi attempts to show their impact on the rise of political institutions in the Middle East. According to him, interference in the political institutions due to the British need to secure the trade was detrimental to the evolution of political representative institutions in the region. Introducing democratic institutions on the route countries was hence much harder in the aftermath of the independence of such countries.
Hadi Esfahani (University of Illinois, USA) used the Iranian experience as a stepping stone for an interesting theoretical analysis of the incentives of the current political and economic changes in the Arab countries and their stance of democracy. While introducing a new framework for analysis, Hadi tries to identify the factors behind the change brought about in the countries of the region.