Sample Essay on Political Systems of the Middle East and North Africa


Political Systems of the Middle East and North Africa


The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has for a long time been in a condition of transition (Burnell 838-855). While there have been hindrances and opposition to political changes, there is little incertitude that the area is developing. In nations like Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia, the majority of the legal structure is being re-sketched. Lawmakers are going back to basic standards when devising political and electoral practices, encompassing what electoral arrangement ought to be applied, in addition to the task of political parties. Together, political parties, civil societies, and the media are striving to comprehend and administer new freedoms and accountabilities. The uprisings in the MENA region hailed from displeasure in the manner in which extant regimes functioned. In 2011, occurrences in Tunisia illuminated long-term economic afflictions and political frustration (Burnell 842-855). These occurrences were soon followed by protests in Egypt expressing similar feelings, setting in action requirements for reforms. In this setting, the degree of communal requirement for democratic restructuring and intelligibility rose, initially in Egypt and Tunisia, and afterward in the Middle East (Burnell 850-855). From 2011, polls have been conducted in several of these nations, for instance, towards the end of 2011 and start of 2012, Egypt held elections and witnessed its first actual national election from 1952. Parliamentary elections were as well conducted in Jordan in early 2013, in Tunisia in 2013, and Yemen is planning presidential elections in 2015. This study will seek to answer the question: What are the challenges facing political systems of the MENA and what are the possible solutions? Ideally, these reforms have concentrated on sections that have to be tackled if political parties and aspirants are to compete successfully in polls. Global concerns like reporting necessities, donation proscriptions, and spending restrictions will have to be tackled from exclusively-MENA angle, reflecting on the political systems and objectives of every nation.

Political Systems

In Egypt, the collapse of the thirty-year dictatorial rule of President Hosni Mubarak was the climax of the years of worsening political, monetary, and social circumstances. The capacity of Egypt to progress from autocracy to democracy will highly rely on its capability to set up democratic establishments identified by its people as comprehensive and representative. The political system of Egypt underscore profound financial gap in the community, clientelism, a mass of regulations and detachment of accountabilities associated with political funding amid various entities as some apposite difficulties. Correspondingly, in Jordan, the present economic situations create a difficulty and vote buying prevails (Henry and Springborg 45-56). Constant concern has been the lack of actual campaign funding rules, particularly a spending restriction. The involvement of women in political affairs and their ownership of resources and funding is as well grounds where there is great room for improvement.

From early 2011, Jordanian activists and political groups have planned regular protests requiring modification to the nation’s political and financial sectors. Protestors, political parties, opposition movements, and members of Jordan’s tribal societies have demanded a termination of corruption, better empowerment for elected representatives, and positive political rivalry. In return, King Abdullah II has altered appointed officials, modified regulations administrating public meetings and political action, and made changes on the constitution. The recent legislative elections were conducted under modified electoral regulations and were administered by the nation’s initial Independent Election Commission. Whereas the majority of such strides reveal the demands of protestors, they have not squelched displeasure (Henry and Springborg 45-56). Furthermore, the impact of the Syrian crisis and the arrival of migrants, in conjunction with the nation’s already strained monetary resources, have increased Jordan’s internal difficulties with many residents calling for widespread reforms in regular remonstrations and online media.

In Lebanon, international influences, the task of affluent business individuals, and banking privacy rule pose exceptional, complex challenges, as well as vote-buying and superannuated political party regulations (Khodr and Ruble 656-689). However, during a period when intense revolts have considerably changed North Africa and the Middle East, Lebanon remains mostly unaffected. Exceptional amid Arab nations, the political system of Lebanon is typified by a sectarian authority-sharing method that consolidates authority in the hands of a small number of spiritual and political heads, leading to a feeble federal government that finds it hard to take even the most crucial measures. After the removal of Syrian soldiers in 2005 after thirty years of occupation, reformists anticipated for a new period of democratic progress. On the contrary, the intricate system of identity politics in Lebanon has ensured that the judgment making progression remains controlled by elites. The continuing crises in Syria have led to increased political and sectarian pressures, resulting in outbursts of violence and offering validation for the resolution to reschedule elections for the first instance after the termination of the civil warfare. With the authority the elite groups bear on the political system and the present condition of political palsy, burning policy concerns, encompassing electoral modifications, devolution, human rights, monetary reformation, and transparency and accountability, stay unhandled by administering institutions, making civil societies as well as a few politicians the only players pushing for transformations.

In early 2011, an unprompted resident-led pressure group tumbled the rule of dictatorial leader Ben Ali, creating room for exceptional political change (Pace 969-984). Under the headship of transitional central establishments, political players concurred on a wide structure for a democratic changeover, encompassing electing the representatives of a National Constituent Assembly, having the responsibility of planning the nation’s new constitution. In late 2011, the residents of Tunisia grasped their first chance to formulate free alternatives in the course of elections, choosing 217 members of the National Constituent Assembly. For the initial instance in the account of Tunisia, an independent electoral commission planned the elections and took up actions to back the ambitions of residents regarding free and fair elections. Though the progress attained so far has been commendable, Tunisia encounters a broad array of difficulties in ensuring a stable, constant, democratic changeover. The encounter with political funding in Tunisia is new and capacities amid establishments as well as political parties are being enhanced. Another difficulty remains in the lack of clarity of legal structure and, particularly, the lack of an upper limit on political party or campaign expenses.

Regardless of being the initial country in Arabia to affranchise women and generate a multiparty political system, lack of advancement on changes and a decline in opposition party undertaking in Yemen have resulted in numerous remonstrations in 2011. These swelled into a profound revolt propelled by thousands of jobless or underpaid youth. Protestors first demanded greater employment opportunities, enhanced public service provision, and a more responsible regime; as turmoil gained impetus, dissenters insisted that the then President Ali Saleh, who had been in authority for more than thirty years, resign. Subsequent to nearly a year of intense uprisings demanding his resignation, Saleh endorsed the Gulf Cooperation Council accord that led to a change of presidential powers to the then Vice President Abdo Hadi. In line with the accord, a presidential election was conducted in early 2012 to affirm Hadi as the president who could oversee a 2-year change phase. The main areas for transformation in the political system of Yemen encompass the misuse of national resources as well as vote-buying (Pace 975-984).

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a nation with nearly a third of the land size of the US, an approximated twenty-seven million residents, and the biggest established oil reserves across the globe, is among the highly closed political systems internationally. Command and control are bestowed on the male descendents of King Saud, who established the modern kingdom at around 1932. Nevertheless, around 1992, the late King Fahd gave declarations reforming the Saudi political system, encompassing the organization of an administrative system that split the nation into thirteen regions. In late 2003, the government affirmed that residents would directly elect officials of municipal councils. In 2005, the resident participated in the first polls in the kingdom in more than forty years to elect 50% of the officials of the 178 municipal councils with the remaining 50% being appointed by the government after the elections (Khodr and Ruble 667-689). The polls were marked by a vivacious campaign time, with campaigners putting up massive tents on empty lands where the residents and the press inquired concerning their policies. Political transformation, corruption, joblessness, environmental safety, and enhanced public services were the major concerns that the aspirants mainly tackled.

Although females and the armed forces were not allowed to vote or act as campaigners, the polls marked a remarkable chance for the residents of Saudi Arabia to function greatly in the governance of the nation. Nevertheless, the councils have been obstructed by restricted and uncertain authorities that have resulted in ineffective supply of services. In this regard, the initial zeal for the municipal council is weakening and the residents are articulating disappointment at the lack of substantial development by the elected officials (Khodr and Ruble 670-689). Of late, the rights of women in Saudi Arabia have advanced, as the government seeks to raise the level of women at work because of the imperative economic requirement to substitute emigrants with Saudis. For example, King Abdullah appointed a female as assistant education minister for women affairs, the highest rank ever acquired by a woman in the government, and appointed ten women to the directorate of the only officially approved National Human Rights Association. Though women were not permitted to participate in the 2005 and 2011 polls, the government has assured them that they will vote in the subsequent elections, the forthcoming being in 2015.


Political systems and laws existed in the majority of the countries in the MENA region prior to recent reforms, but the laws were disregarded or established to help those were in power remain there. Currently, every one of the nations in the MENA region is in a state of economic, social, and political changeover, although the state of transformation differs considerably. Political funding hinders many sectors presently under discussion in these nations, for instance, the participation of women. As mentioned in this study, the political systems in every country of the Middle East and North Africa are hindered by varying challenges that can be solved politically. Where there are similar setbacks, there are great chances for sharing information and experiences to triumph over the problems.

Works Cited

Burnell, Peter. “Democratisation in the Middle East and North Africa: perspectives from democracy support.” Third World Quarterly 34.5 (2013): 838-855.

Henry, Clement Moore, and Robert Springborg. Globalization and the Politics of Development in the Middle East. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Print.

Khodr, Hiba, and Isabella Ruble. “Energy Policies and Domestic Politics in the MENA Region in the Aftermath of the Arab Upheavals: The Cases of Lebanon, Libya, and KSA.” Politics & Policy 41.5 (2013): 656-689.

Pace, Michelle. “The EU’s Interpretation of the ‘Arab Uprisings: Understanding the Different Visions about Democratic Change in EU-MENA relations.” Journal of Common Market Studies 52.5 (2014): 969-984.