Ahmad Al Jabbouri

Mar 6, 2021

4 min read

The Middle East, Peace and Democracy

The theory of Democratic Peace is one of the new theories in the field of political science and international relations. The reason for its uniqueness is that until recent centuries, democracy has had a negative value burden, and that is why thinkers have been reluctant to endorse it. The main proponent of this theory is Emmanuel Kant, who for the first time in his work Towards Eternal Peace confirmed the hypothesis of democratic peace. However, because of the negative value burden of democracy in his time, he also presented it as peace between republican governments.

Green Movement Protests in Iran, 2009. Photo By Ben Curtis on AP Images

The Concept of Democracy in The Middle East

The concept of democracy in the Middle East has always had ups and downs and has been changed a lot over time. Although the challenges of the emergence of democracy can be seen in many Middle Eastern governments, the severity and weakness of these challenges vary according to historical, cultural, and economic backgrounds. But given the challenges in the Middle East, is it possible to achieve peace through democratic mechanisms? Democracy in the Middle East began with the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions. The Middle East has so far been the only region in the world that has not experienced a transition to democracy.

Protesters gather in Tahrir Square on February 1, 2011 During Arab Spring, Photo By Peter Macdiarmid on Getty Image

The Impact of the Challenges of Transition to Peace through democracy on political Development in the Middle East

1. Democratic slogans and idealistic goals among revolutionary groups

Basically, in every revolution, the people and individuals who participate in these movements pursue and lead specific slogans and ideals. The dominant slogan of the opposition in these revolutions has been the toppling of dictatorial regimes and the main demand of the people of all these countries was the free movement of power in the hands of the elites and the formation of democratic systems in their country.

2. Preparation of the constitution law and structural reforms:

Undoubtedly, the method and process of preparing the constitution have a direct impact on the quality and content of the constitution and its success and efficiency. It is because of this important issue that the method of preparing the constitution is one of the basic issues of constitutional law.

3. Holding free elections

An election is a formal process in which the people of a country elect a person or persons to a government position for a specific period of time. The main purpose of elections is to elect the people’s representatives in a democratic and rotating manner. This is the spirit of democracy; the rule of the people in determining their political fate.

Demonstrators hold placards during a rally to better implement the Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women, in Istanbul, Turkey, August 5, 2020. (AFP)

As one of the main manifestations of democracy in the Arab countries of the Middle East, holding free elections is one of the first issues to be raised. Of course, there have been elections in these countries before, but these elections were more nominal and not all people were able to participate in the elections. Besides as we have seen, the presidents of these countries have ruled for more than two or three decades after they have achieved their political position. Thus, holding free and fair elections has been one of the important demands of these societies.

According to these factors mentioned above, analysts coined the name “The Arab Spring” to this democratization process. If we consider such developments as democratic movements, given the main notion of Democratic Peace theory we should expect these governments will not wage a war among each other. This stimulus is necessary to democratize the region and bring peace and stability, but the political and security challenges in the Middle East are hindering the achievement of democratic peace in this region

Political Protest in Baghdad, Iraq, January 24, 2020. (Reuters)

Security-political challenges in the Middle East

Challenges between Palestine and Israel, fundamentalism and terrorism, ethnic and religious conflicts, differences between Shiites and Sunnis, and the issue of Iran’s nuclear program are the main obstacles to democracy and peace in the region

Without ending and resolving these challenges in the region, the issue of peace and democracy in the region with numerical challenges, if it can happen, will be the foundation of this shaky peace and will continue for political development in the region.