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(How has the oil wealth affected the prospects of democratization in the Arab Gulf) and ( Evaluate the role of civil society in - Essay Example

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Name: Instructor: Course: Date: Oil, Civil Society, and Democracy in the Middle East Most analysts have wondered whether the recent Arab Spring across the Middle East has helped in the spread of democracy. This region has a lot of wealth in oil, which is often seen as a curse since it allows authoritarian governments to last longer since dictators can buy patronage from nationally controlled oil wealth and become stronger (Ehteshami 34)…
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(How has the oil wealth affected the prospects of democratization in the Arab Gulf) and ( Evaluate the role of civil society in

Download file to see previous pages... Political science and economics studies have found that there is limitation of advances in democracy where countries in the Middle East have vast oil reserves. Oil wealth has a long-term effect on Middle Eastern democracy efforts. While extraction activities normally take place over an extended period, major oil discoveries take place during these countries’ peak production years (Ehteshami 37). Oil discoveries made in democratic countries such as Norway have no effect on their democratic trajectories. However, where oil is discovered in non-democratic countries, it is less likely that these countries will transition to democracy. Oil discovery has little effect on democratic countries politically. While Iran has been under theocratic rule for over 20 years, oil was discovered when they were a democracy, which can be seen to date as the country holds regular elections compared to its other Middle Eastern oil producers. The country only became less democratic after the Western-led coup of 1953 before transitioning back to elective democracy. This is in contrast to Qatar that discovered oil as a monarchy and has not made any strides towards democracy (Ehteshami 37). Prior to the early 50s, Egypt had one of the most vibrant democracies in the region with limited supplies of oil peaking in the mid 60s after which oil production declined from the 90s onwards. A similar history is shared by Tunisia, which was also a democratic country when they discovered oil. The relatively peaceful transitions in these countries are not a coincidence (Ehteshami 38). This is in stark contrast to Syria, whose major oil discoveries were made during authoritarian military rule. The transition from Bashar Al-Assad’s government to another has seen a bloody civil war erupt, as is the case with Iraq where oil discoveries were made during authoritarian rule. Oil rich non-democratic countries spend more on their military in order to stay in power, which enhances their political power and prevents the democratization of their countries. Lucrative reserves of oil also provide dictators with the incentive to want to stay in power longer since they fear they will loose everything if another leader comes in (Ehteshami 38). While civil society has played a critical role in the democratization of countries in Latin America and Eastern Europe, this has not been reflected in the Middle East. In this region, NGOs have been tamed and weakened since they can be co-opted using oil money (Ehteshami 98). Meanwhile, the EU and the US have continued to emphasize how important it is to develop civil society. Funding by the west for Arab NGOs has seen a significant increase since the September 11 attacks. The amount of money channeled to Middle Eastern countries by the US has tripled in the 12 years since. However, empowerment of these NGOs remains flawed and aimless because the countries’ leaders also have money that can co-opt them. Most of the NGOs in Arab countries are government organized with staffing and funding provided by the government. Their main idea in funding the NGOs has to do with managing and controlling change, rather than inspiring or instigating change (Ehteshami 98). Even where it is relatively easy to establish organizations that fight for democracy, these are still under strict ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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