So far, the results of the political unrest come as a shock to the rest of the world. Both the ruler of Tunisia and the ruler of Egypt were quickly forced from power. In fear of a similar fate, several neighboring states responded to their protests swiftly and violently, including Yemen and Libya. NATO-backed Libyan rebels successfully overthrew Muammar Gaddafi’s regime and soon enough, President of Yemen Ali Abdullah Saleh crumbled under the pressure as well. The civil war in Syria continues to rage on. The fates of these regimes bring into question the functionality of republican dictatorships in the Arab world as opposed to that of monarchical rule. The Arab monarchies, Morocco, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain have so far been able to weather through the region’s uprisings with generally nonviolent protests. Sean L. Yom states, “Such outcomes have led many analysts to generalize boldly: in an era of revolutionary turmoil, perhaps monarchical rule provides the safest path for autocratic perpetuity” (Yom).
One of the largest arguments for the monarchical rule is legitimacy. The Arab monarchs possess a certain authenticity with their people. Jordan’s royal family claims to be descendants of the Prophet Muhammed, which allows the ruling monarch to earn the respect of his people and thus acquire authority. “Dynastic rule is argued to provide Arab communities with a sense of trust because of its representation of the continuity of the past to the present; it allows them to believe that stability will persist even through times of uncertainty and change” (Yom). Lacking this unique legitimacy, the Arab presidents attempted to develop their own authenticity by having elections. However, these were heavily rigged in order for them to stay in power, which resulted in having the opposite intended effect (Ghitis). In addition, several presidents were preparing their sons to succeed them. The Syrian President Bashar Assad had actually succeeded his father, which goes against the idea of a republic. The idea behind a republic being different from a monarchy is that the president serves for a set amount of terms and then there must be elections (Greenblatt). The people saw through the rulers’ false claims of popular support which further fueled the opposition
Another explanation for monarchical resilience is “authoritarian statecraft.” Essentially, these surviving autocracies engage in “strategies of institutional manipulation and opposition management” more effectively than republican dictators (Yom). Monarchs are able to delegate responsibilities to elected officials, while retaining most of their power. When necessary, they essentially scapegoat these elected bodies in response to the unpopularity and protest in order to maintain popular support. In this way, they are also able to deflect public dissatisfaction toward other political officials. This is a major benefit that allows monarchs to suffer from much less social opposition than most presidents do.
Although legitimacy and statecraft provide reasonable arguments for monarchy’s durability during the Arab Spring, they are not as tangible as geopolitics and oil. These play a huge role in stability because they are the primary factors…