Standard accounts of democracy give little or no attention to the Middle East. A recent study of democracy in developing countries in Asia excludes the region on the grounds that ‘the Islamic countries of the Middle East and North Africa generally lack much previous democratic experience, and most appear to have little prospect of transition even to semi-democracy’ (Diamond, Linz and Lipset 1989:xx). Two comparative surveys (Lijphart 1984; Powell 1982) include Israel in a category of ‘continuously democratic’ but because of its particularly distinct pattern of state formation Israel will not be considered here. Turkey is included in a secondary category of ‘other democracies’/‘democratic regime seriously suspended’. For Lijphart, ‘Lebanese democracy was a good example of the consensus model and could have served well as one of the illustrations of this model’ (Lijphart 1984:40). Powell excludes Lebanon on the grounds that the majority of legislators were not members of a political party. (Powell 1982:7). Given the essence of Lijphart and Powell’s conception of democracy (freedom to organize, vote and express opinion; electoral competition; accountability of governments through electoral means) and given that there was no consistent legal exclusion of parties, it makes some sense to include Lebanon along with Turkey as a state which has had lengthy periods where elections and democratic institutions have functioned.
As in many parts of the Third World, establishing and sustaining even partially-democratic systems has been difficult and authoritarian rule has been more common. Even where