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Liberal Voices in Non-Liberal Places? Democratic Aspirations in Russia and Arab Countries

Thursday January 26, 2012, from 14:00 to 16:00
Room Fred Halliday - IBEI (1st Floor)
Research seminar

Political and social change has swept the Arab world in the past year, and in some of these countries the first democratic elections ever in their history have been held. In Russia, after the December 2011 parliamentary elections, protest movements demanding political pluralism have taken to the streets, although here the outcome is yet open-ended. In the West these political aspirations for a change over status quo in Russia and in various Arab countries have invariably been labelled  ‘democratic revolutions’ and, perhaps as a consequence, raised our expectations that liberal thought, truly competitive elections and certain individual freedoms should naturally take root in these countries once past the initial revolutionary stage. However, it should be kept in mind that the reform movements in Russia and in Arab countries have risen in traditionally highly non-liberal contexts, where Western-inspired liberal voices play a subordinate and/or even a negative role. This fact inevitably conditions the type of regime that will develop in post-election Tunisia and/or Egypt. The dominant non-liberal streak in Russian politics could also condition any potential Russian political alteration, whether through government-tutored reform or through regime-change.

The current presentation will focus on the role that liberal sectors have played in these countries in recent years and explore why they have not been able to make a more profound impact on their respective societies.