After Egypt, Tunisia, Libya Overthrows, Arab Upheaval Begins to Settle

Article excerpt

Egypt quietly moves into another phase of voting, while the monarchs in Morocco and Jordan have stabilized their rule through reforms.

Tumult. Tragedies. Victory. Exulta-tion. That was 2011 in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, where longstanding dictators were swept away by popular revolts that are still reshaping the Arab world.

"We started the revolution, but we're still completing it," says Ahmed Salah of Cairo, who quit his job at a stock exchange last year to help unite revolutionary forces.

Indeed, 2012 is the year of what comes next, of deep breaths after a furious sprint, of political strategizing, building on gains made, and repairing economies damaged by a year of almost unprecedented upheaval.

That is, for the three countries mentioned above. In the rest of the region, the popular calls for political change have stalled.

In Bahrain, state repression has shoved mass protests back into their box, and the jails remain filled with political prisoners.

In Syria, there's an increasingly entrenched and violent conflict. At least 5,600 have died in the yearlong revolt against President Bashar al-Assad's rule, and while there's much international hand-wringing, a foreign military intervention like the one that helped turn the tide against Muammar Qaddafi in Libya at the moment appears very unlikely.

Moroccans keep calm

Elsewhere, public demands for change have been much less dramatic, though discontent continues to burble across the region. In mid-January, two unemployed Moroccan university graduates set themselves on fire, in a protest inspired by the self-immolation of Mohammed Bouazizi, the Tunisian whose suicide started the uprising that swept Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali from power, electrifying the Arab world.

But the recent immolations (one of the men later died) has not inspired an uprising in Morocco against the constitutional monarchy of King Mohammed VI. That perhaps is a measure of the success of steps taken thus far to mollify protesters.

Last year, the king allowed constitutional reforms and called for early elections, which saw the Islamist Justice and Development Party take power in early January. But the king has also appointed a shadow cabinet of long-term loyalists that look set to be a check on, if not ultimately more powerful than, the new Parliament. The royal cabinet has occasionally vetoed actions of the elected government, and retains those powers going forward.

Jordanians speak out

In Jordan, another experiment of a king finding ways to bend, without breaking his regime, is under way.

There has been a steady drumbeat of democracy demonstrations in Jordan since early 2011. Leftists, communists, Islamists, and tribal leaders have all expressed their various demands. …