ME’s Biggest Winner: Governments


People give legitimacy to their regimes in an intentional or unintentional ruling bargain deal


“People choose to remain politically acquiescent in return for sufficient stability and services from the government.”

–          Modern Middle East: A political History since World War I, Kamrava Mehran


This is widely known as the “ruling bargain,” especially evident in the Middle Eastern states, where the majority of people give legitimacy to their regimes in an intentional or unintentional ruling bargain deal.

It seems justifiable at some point, considering the fact that a “peaceful life” is the most desirable end for the sheer number of population, and it is also a natural demand of any living creature.

However, the theory of give-and-take does not seem to be transcended, a thing that patriarchal authorities are aware of and leads them to allow duly short-term reforms to survive. While the bargaining itself proved to be a “success” for decades, since the formation of Arab states under the authority of either patriarchies or monarchial presidencies, new movements have emerged demanding radical social changes and shared powers.

Analysts tend to make connection between the decreased ruling bargains and the rise of the Arab Spring, namely in Tunisia and Egypt. As governments failed to meet the rising demands of people in some countries- with the increased unemployment and poverty rates, the red lines surrounding authorities started to vanquish.

This actually seemed appealing at some point. But the verb remained in a past tense… It was a backfire, even to the surrounding states, where the encroachment of the Arab Spring remained unexperienced.

Christopher Davidson’s “After the Sheikhs” described how Gulf monarchies tend to demonize their opponents; branding them as foreign-backed fifth columnists, religious fundamentalists or sometimes terrorists, while monarchies themselves are portrayed as being safe and reliable upholders of the status quo. This is also believed to be the situation in other neighboring Arab states.

However, as the Arab Spring flames broke out in the region, this has “Not only given hope for those Gulf nationals and Gulf-based movement committed to serious political reform autocracies, but they have also made it harder for the Gulf monarchies to depict their new enemies as anything other than pro-democracy activists or disillusioned citizens who have recognized the inevitable collapse of the political and economic structures underpinning their rulers.”1

Now, as the Arab Spring revolutions have entered their fourth year, with no ample evidence of a successful post-revolution democracy, and with all gory stories from the current revolutions, people have started to coalesce around their rulers, with some making a volte-face on the whole social changes demands. A person just needs to raise the issue in any discussion to be reminded of the oft-cited examples from the Arab region, as “People want to live in peace, we do not need to witness any bloodbath.”

This might have been a “too late” volte-face, as some activists have already fallen victims to scapegoat arrests in the region, they have become the ones to blame, even if they were prisoners of opinion, being blamed for “dubious dissenting opinions.” Thus, reforms have become bogeyman, with people willing to be, again, “politically acquiescent in return for sufficient stability and services.”

As the ruling bargain has once again changed in favor for the region’s governments, and bout of speculations merged on the future of the region, particularly its democracy, perhaps the most of potent question left unanswered is the proper polity in the Middle East, after exposing the “democracy” lie that no longer fools the Arab nations, at least the educated elite.



1- After the Sheikhs, the Coming Collapse of the Gulf Monarchies, Christopher Davidson

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