Democracy in the Middle East  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The measure of the level of democracy in nations throughout the world published by Freedom House and various other freedom indices, the Middle Eastern and North African countries with the highest scores are Israel, Tunisia, Turkey, Lebanon, Morocco, and Kuwait. Countries that are occasionally classified as partly democratic are Egypt and Iraq. The remaining countries of the Middle East are categorized as authoritarian regimes, with the lowest scores held by Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Freedom House categorizes Israel and Tunisia as "Free", Lebanon, Turkey, Kuwait and Morocco "Partly Free", and the remaining states as "Not Free" (including Western Sahara, which is controlled by Morocco). Events of the "Arab Spring" such as the Tunisian Revolution may indicate a move towards democracy in some countries which may not be fully captured in the democracy index. In 2015, Tunisia became the first Arab country classified as free since the beginning of Lebanon’s civil war 40 years ago. Theories are diverse on the subject. "Revisionist theories" argue that democracy is slightly incompatible with Middle Eastern values. [Lewis, Bernard. What Went Wrong?: The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East] On the other hand, "post-colonial" theories (such as those put forth by Edward Said) for the relative absence of liberal democracy in the Middle East are diverse, from the long history of imperial rule by the Ottoman Empire, Britain and France and the contemporary political and military intervention by the United States, all of which have been blamed for preferring authoritarian regimes because this simplifies the business environment, while enriching the governing elite and the companies of the imperial countries. Other explanations include the problem that most of the states in the region are rentier states, which experience the theorized resource curse.

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