Arab Democracy Index IV

"The good news is that in spite of the turbulence, the buds of democracy are growing in the Arab region. Our latest Index reveals that the seeds of change have propagated. Even more exciting is the fact that the countries' rulers are responding to demands - in order to survive." Bassma Kodmani, Director of the Arab Reform Initiative

The 4th edition of the Arab Democracy Index reflects the positive impact of the Arab Spring of 2011 on the 9 countries from its in-depth survey carried out by Arab social scientists.

Ranking of the 9 countries surveyed:

  • The top country registering overall positive changes and reforms is Morocco, followed by Jordan and Algeria. The fact that Morocco and Jordan have not witnessed uprisings shows that gradual change through reform is less costly. Algeria's significant progress is the nervous response of a defensive regime spending billions in social and economic benefits to silence political demands.
  • The surprise is that Egypt and Tunisia (in 4th and 6th place) who experienced major revolutions - saw no change in ranking since 2011. This is because though real progress in freedoms were registered, these were countered by poorer living conditions and rising insecurity.
  • Bahrain came last, reflecting the most negative scenario, where a popular uprising - as in Libya, Syria and Yemen - was met with a harsh response in order to restore the government instead of allowing change.

Results confirm the good news that:

  • while growth is slow, the signals of continuing progress in democratic reforms are there.
  • public protest is the most effective compared to other means of pressure.
  • governments that didn't want to give in on civic and political rights have developed emergency social and ecnomic welfare plans to silence the political demands. Thus the people have benefitted in one way or another.

Recommendations: for each country are offered on policy reform in order to bring in democratisation, constitutional reforms and greater transparency. They range from granting greater freedom of expression in Algeria; to giving legal protection to those who denounce corruption in Lebanon; to allowing free establishment of political parties and associations in Kuwait.

Conclusion: the ruling Arab elites have realised that they must bring in reforms in order to survive. The current popular pressure will not be diffused through the old strategies of undemocratic co-option and cosmetic reforms.

​The Arab Democracy Index evaluates 40 socio-political factors chosen to reflect the reality of changes in the reform process of Arab countries. Theses indicators document transition to democracy.

It is produced biannually by the Arab Reform Initiative and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.

The views represented in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arab Reform Initiative, its staff, or its board.