Is durability key to authoritarian survival?

I was watching the breaking news on Al-Jazeera channel on the day what some believed close to a million of Egyptians gathering in Tahrir Square on 25th January 2011, demanding for total change of the country’s system and resignation of autocratic Hosni Mubarak. It was remarkably unbelievable that the long stand regime of Mubarak was finally giving up and paved way to the victorious Egyptian Revolution. Mubarak and Egypt posed to be another example of autocratic leadership and revolutionary regime in world history that finally came to end after more than decades rule.

Morsi perhaps tried to disassociate from Mubarak’s regime, unfortunately his administration shared same corrupted body (state system)

What explains the origin of dictatorship and revolutionary regime? Levitsky and Way define it as “those which emerged out of sustained, ideological, and violent struggle from below, and whose establishment is accompanied by mass mobilization and significant efforts to transform state structures and the existing social order”. Having to understand this, I am wondering the like of Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi initially emerged as leaders of revolutionary, however has transformed their leadership to authoritarian . When I read through Levitsky and Way, revolutionary regimes impressive durability to withstand extraordinary challenges proved to be incredible. Levitsky and Way (2013,p7-14) came out with 4 striking arguments to explain durability of revolutionary regime : 1) the destruction of independent power centers; 2) strong ruling parties; 3) invulnerability to coups; and 4) enhanced coercive capacity.

Massive protest in Tienanmen Square, Beijing which ended with coercive action by military

To eliminate alternative centres of power, I see that most of authoritarian leaders often share common approach that is to gain strategic position and influence of state’s military. The like of Saddam, Mubarak, Gaddafi, Castro and Kim II-Sung, they themselves raised up from military background and earned them highest rank in the army, therefore they established invulnerability state to any coup. Levitsky and Way while argue some regimes like Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) used coercive measure to crackdown resistance in 1986’s student protest and 1989 Tienanmen massacre respectively, others regimes failed to enforce military to continue repress the uprising as we can see in 1998 Reformasi Indonesia and Egypt and Tunisia in 2011. Furthermore, to avoid being isolated from international arena, every regime inevitably had to adopt “their own democracy system”, and it is unsurprising, for example Mubarak gained close to 90% support in any election held and dominated the parliament through strong single ruling party.

Arab Spring could be the most historic political moment in the modern era, however the revolts against secular leaders (republic) have been much more successful than those against monarchs. Yom and Gause explained for this exceptionalism and discovered it linkage between historical legacy of internal options and “permissive international environment”. It is not difficult to understand how monarchs survived any deposition, despite their continuous authoritarian ruling. The Arabs kings, sultans and emirs enjoy exceptional legitimacy of divine “thanks to Islamic values, tribal mores and hereditary principles that resonates with their societies”. King of Saudi, for example proclaims himself as The Custodian of Two Holy Cities (Muslim’s holy cities of Mecca and Madina) which makes him as superior at the eyes of Muslims. Despite other factor such as fanatical support based on tribal origins and tradition of Sunni and Shia, the external assistance particularly from the United States through it foreign aids, military interventions and diplomatic assurance has been major factor that put the monarch regimes stay in power, and as example Bahrain revolution has proven a failure.

Collectively, the  revolutionary regimes and authoritarian rulers might be able to stay and strengthen power in their arm for the next few decades if they adhere to rules of durability, only “divine intervention” that can bring hope to anyone who wish for change.


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