Authoritarianism is one of the challenges facing countries in the Middle East and Latin America. However, some of the states in these regions have made attempts at embracing democracy. Some countries have experienced more success in achieving it than others. Nevertheless, they are all yet to reach the level of democracy, national progress and cohesion evident in some other democratic nation globally (Grandin et al. 400). The remaining nations in these two regions, which are under authoritarian leadership have some similarities and differences. This paper will investigate why authoritarian leadership in the Middle East may continue for a longer while as compared to the leadership in Latin America.
One of the main similarities evident in both regions is the support given to both by the United States of America. The U.S has been most supportive of the authoritarian regimes in these regions due to American gains in the regions with the presence of authoritarianism. The U.S government offered arms, financial and technical support to these countries. Although the reasons for this have evolved over the years, the U.S government continues to offer aid for the preservation of these regimes in both the Middle East and Latin American regions even today (Grandin et al. 397).
The Islamists movements, gaining popularity in the Middle East in the 1980s, drove the United States to a state of concern. As an outcome, they sort to establish strong relationships with authoritarian regimes in the region in order to ensure the stability of their activities (Cifcti 1445). They also ensured that they gradually segregated themselves from the weaker regimes the region had. This was done under the notion that attaining regional stability was better than democracy. Realistically, the aim was to ensure that the United States’ impact in the region was affirmed. Some influential states such as Saudi Arabia have a stable relationship with the United States to this day. Countries such as Mexico had established a contact with the U.S from 1929 to 2000 (Peeler 55). In the new millennium, the relationship experienced some challenges.
As an outcome, authoritarianism may continue in the Middle East as compared to the Latin American countries because the Americans are threatened more by the Middle East than by Latin America. The U.S may be compelled to continue offering assistance to the Middle East more than it would offer the Latin American states in order to establish stability in the former due to the radical Islamic movements in the country. For example, the United States government withdrew its military forces from Iraq due the community’s pressure, both local and international.(McMurray & Amanda 65). The Middle East region appears to have the upper hand in matters relating to their political status as compared to the Latin American region.
Another similarity relates to the colonizers of these two regions. Majority, if not all states in these two regions were colonized by European nations. Overwhelming number of the European states had embraced socialism, which was a better version of communism. Nevertheless, it still promoted the dictatorial mode of leadership. After the colonization period, majority of the states continued with the practices which had been instilled by their colonizers. The one-man rule continued to be embraced by these states until the force of multi-parties overwhelmed this regime as it has been the cases with Egypt and Tunisia. (McMurray & Amanda 70)
Even though both regions were colonized by European regions, the Middle East region may continue to survive under dictatorship as compared to the Latin American countries because of the status of their political and governance structure prior and during the colonization period. Latin American states were weaker than the states in the Middle East (McMurray & Amanda 81). Latin American countries were mainly colonized by Spain, which was consistently overthrown by Britain in their colonies. The Middle East, on the other hand, colonized as significant part of the region, through the Persian Empire, for example. Such empires strengthened governance and the political structure, hence the current status (Noland 7).
Another similarity relates to the presence of military dictatorship in some of the countries in both regions. Countries such as Venezuela, Nicaragua, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, amongst others have encountered military leadership at some point during their independent years. States such as Iraq, Egypt, Iran and Syria, have also experienced military dictatorship in the Middle East. The presence of military dictatorship in these regions has constantly led t to internal wars that have attracted the intervention of the global community such as the United States (Ciftci 1450). Instead of making an impact in the region, the global community has constantly found itself compromising in order to sustain stability. As an outcome, as it was indicated earlier, the community ends up supporting authoritarianism rather than fighting it. As evident, the leaders argue that stability is better than democracy.
One of the differences, which is obvious between these two regions relates to trade. While Latin America has its share of minerals and other valuable commodities that it trades to the global community, the Middle East region has oil. The state is, therefore at the advantage of getting high oil rents due to trade. Authoritarianism ensures that the state is the sole beneficiary of oil rents while democracy destabilizes this perception. Countries in the Middle East, therefore, prefer to sustain authoritarianism as compared do democracy, as the former allows them to continue benefiting from these rents (Noland 5), since they give the country financial power to maintain military force. They have also been accused of supporting some of these radical Islamic groups, hence upholding terrorism, as it is the case with Iraq. Such financial power allows the states in the Middle East to gain more grounds when fighting external and internal forces influencing the presence of democracy in the region.
Additionally, it is evident that some states in both regions have been overwhelmed by internal forces fighting for democracy. Such countries in the Middle East include Egypt and Tunisia. Chile, Nicaragua and Argentina represent states that have embraced democracy in Latin America. However, some states have encountered more challenges in shifting to democracy as compared to others. One great cause of this status is the grounds on which their ideologies are formed. The ideologies in the Middle East states are mainly formed on the Islamic religion, which is depicted through Sharia law (Cifcti 1459).
The Sharia law greatly upholds authoritarianism as opposed to democracy. In some scenarios, a man such as Ghannouchi, a Tunisian Islamic leader, has gone to great lengths to depict the presence of democracy in Islamic religion. However, majority of the Islamic leaders are against this perception of the religion. As an outcome, they have continued to push for one-man leadership even in the presence of the democracy wave hovering in the political arena (Ciftci 1461). In fact, this is one of the issues that led to the success of political transition in Tunisia and evident failure in Egypt. The leaders of the latter were not willing to share power. They still felt that the Islamic law was not as liberal as the Tunisians wanted to convey it. The conflicts of power sharing continue to bombard the country even today.
Such state as Saudi Arabia may not embrace democracy as fast as the international community would want to adopt democracy. First, it is a kingdom. Although the structure may differ from the one in the United Kingdom, all decisions are highly influenced by the royal family. In Saudi Arabia, the Saud Family is the loyal family and most, if not all laws and policies have been made in a way that they invoke the decisions of the king in the long run (McMurray & Amanda 65).
Authoritarianism in the Middle East and Latin America is at different levels. Although countries in both regions have made attempts at embracing democracy, states in Latin America are establishing more success than ones in the Middle East. Moreover, this change process in the Middle East may take longer than the international community may want it to take due to various factors. Although there are evident similarities in this form of leadership in both regions, it is obvious that some differences are leading to the prominence of authoritarianism in the Middle East as compared to Latin America. Both regions have been supported by the United States.
However, the threat emerging from radical Islamic groups in the Middle East are causing the U.S government to strengthen its support in the Middle East as compared to Latin America. Additionally, even though both regions have experienced military dictatorship, the presence of oil rents is giving the Middle East some financial power to carry out its agenda. Islamic religion in the Middle East has also facilitated the strengthening of this type of leadership in the region. Moreover, the resistance to power sharing are leading to the unsuccessful attempts of change in such countries as Egypt.