Developments in Tunisia and Sudan signal an end, at least for now, to the democratic hopes of the 2011 Arab Spring


1) Daniel-Dylan Böhmer, “Die falsche Hoffnung auf arabische Demokratie,” Die Welt, den 22, April 2023;

2) Daniel-Dylan Böhmer, “The false hope for Arab democracy,” Die Welt, April 22, 2023..


Daniel-Dylan Böhmer takes the current fighting in Sudan as a starting point for an excellent review of developments in the vaious countries of the Middle East since 2011, when Tunisia was the first country to see the overthrow of the old regime amid calls for freedom and democracy.

The elected president of Tunisia, Kais Saied, after gathering the powers of the state to himself has just arrested Rached Ghannouchi, the leader of the main opposition Ennahdi party, a moderate affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood. With that move, President Saied completed his auto-coup, and hopes for democracy in Tunisia seem to have come to an end.

The fighting in Sudan also seems to have brought to an end hopes for a negotiated civilian government in that country, supported by both the army leader, Abdelfattah Burhan, and by Mohammed Hamdan Dagal,the leader of the militia known as the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

Now the two generals are slugging it out, civilian fornces with international support have been relegated to the status of bystanders, and no one knows how it will all work out. What is certain is that democratic forces are not ascendant.

From Morocco to Syria and from Egypt to Iraq the democratic hopes of the Arab Spring have not been realized. Yet each country is different, with different forces at play. The one common theme in most countries has been the inability of the Islamist parties to agree with the more secular parties on the rules to be followed in a democratic state.

Nonetheless, in Morocco under King Mohamed VI some progress has been made, while experience has been gained in operating within a framework of parliamentary elections. In Iraq they are still holding democratic elections.

Daniel-Dylan Böhmer’s masterful overview of developments in nine Middle Eastern Countries provides the big picture and the broader context for examination of developments in eqch country. He does not address developments in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the Palestinian Authority, or Iran.

Are Arabs and Middle Easterners constitutionally incapable of making the compromises that are essential to the functioning and viability of a democratic state?

One may recall the scene in the movie “Laurence of Arabia” after Damascus had been liberated from the Germans, and the Arabs, who had been given responsibility for the provision of water and electricity but failed in this task. The scene was one of utter bedlam with different Arab parties yelling at each other. There is no doubt that that is what certain British observers saw.

Yet there is no reason to assume that Arabs, who are as gifted as any other ethnic group (one need only think of their contributions to medicine), are incapable of developing democratic governments.

In many countries–one need only think of Latin America–stable democracies did not develop overnight. But they have developed and are still developing. They are also now developing in different countries in Africa, from Kenya to Nigeria to South Africa.

The pace of democratic developments may well depend on the degree to which the U.S., Europe and other countries act to defend and strengthen international law and its critically important subfield of international human rights.

The Trenchant Observer