What do people in the Arab countries want? Conceptions of democracy

Arab respondents
mostly reject the EU brand of formal liberal democracy in which elections are
essential, but civil and political rights remain decoupled from unprioritised social
and economic rights.

Deputies support ratification of new constitution for Tunisia, January 26, 2014. Demotix/Mohamed Krit. All rights reserved.
Findings from the Arab Transformation
survey
carried out in 2014 in six developing Arab states, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya,
Morocco  and Tunisia suggest that the EU
assumption of democratisation as a value shared with Arab states is
misplaced. Few respondents wanted the EU
brand of ‘thin’, procedural democracy in which civil and political rights
remain decoupled from social and economic rights. Furthermore, few respondents
thought the EU had done a good job of facilitating a transition to democracy in
their country or had much appetite for EU involvement in the domestic politics
of their countries. Few respondents thought the EU had done a good job of facilitating a transition to democracy in their country or had much appetite for EU involvement in the domestic politics of their countries.

The EU, like other western powers, was quick to portray the
2011 uprisings as a popular demand for liberal democracy – procedural democracy
and political rights. However, while the uprisings were intensely political, a
demand for regime change, they were not primarily a demand for democratisation,
or at least for the ‘thin’ definition promoted by the EU.

Protesters were more concerned about social justice,
economic security and employment. In
response to the uprisings, the EU revised its policies and claimed that it
would encourage ‘deep democracy’. It also promised to listen to Arab voices.
However, analysis of policy documents reveals that the EU model of democracy
remained substantively unchanged and did not respond to popular demands for
social justice and economic…

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