Explaining duration of leadership change in Arab uprisings through perceived political opportunity structures : comparing Egypt and Syria
Embargo Lift Date: 2018-09-28
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Egyptian President Mubarak was forced to leave office after turbulent public protests that lasted eighteen days in 2011. Yet, in the Syrian case, we have currently been witnessing a completely different state of affairs. Hence, this comparative work is an attempt at exploring the dynamics of change within the context of domestic politics in two of the most important ‘Arab Spring’ countries, Egypt and Syria. The present research seeks to answer the following question: During the recent uprisings in the Arab world, why has the removal from office of the incumbent leader is less likely in Syria when compared to Egypt? The purpose of this research is two-fold. First, it investigates whether or not the historical trajectories [particularly from early 1970s to 2011] of these two states indicate a substantial difference in terms of being politically open or closed and in having different institutions with different characteristics. Second, it examines to what extent the strategies implemented by the regimes during the uprisings (January 25, 2011- February 11, 2011 [Egypt] and March 2011-2014 [Syria]) influence the claim-making capabilities of those opposition groups and the structure of elite alliances within the society and political scene. This work mainly follows the ‘political process’ (political opportunity structures) and ‘framing’ understandings of recent social movement literature, which describe the available and perceived opportunities and constraints of a political and institutional environment in which actors operate. Apart from the theoretical frameworks, the concept of ‘Social Drama’, envisaged by Victor Turner, has been employed as a convenient template to render the dynamics of the political processes under investigation more comprehensible. The data from large numbers of in-depth interviews with over 60 local informants is supported by an extensive literature review that includes very recent scholarly works in order to achieve more accurate claims. What is aimed at here is understanding this particular region better based on theoretically informed in-depth case studies, complemented by comparisons.