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