Middle East and North Africa

Endgames: Why Militaries Forsook Bouteflika and Al-Bashir, but Not Maduro

Massive peaceful protests are the ultimate endgame for autocrats: If all other means have failed, the incumbent’s political survival hinges on the loyalty of the military. In 2019, presidents in Algeria, Sudan, and Venezuela learned this the hard way. When Algerian President Bouteflika announced to run for a fifth term, the masses flooded the streets. […]

Iran before the Elections: Tehran’s Chernobyl Moment

On 21 February, the Islamic Republic will hold elections. Authorities in Tehran claim that thousands of candidates have registered to run in the hope of securing one of the 290 seats in the Majlis, the Iranian parliament. This all sounds very promising, if not democratic – but the reality is something else altogether. Elections in […]

Digitalization: Curse or Blessing for Developing Economies?

Digital technologies are becoming increasingly important for the economic prosperity and international competitiveness of individual economies. On the one hand, for developing countries they represent a potential source with which can increase material prosperity and combat poverty. On the other hand, there is the danger that some of these countries will be technologically left behind […]

Algerian Politics: The Closing Window for Change

For more than four months protesters in Algeria have been urging a clean-up of the country’s politics and a new constitution. But how realistic is change given the military’s iron grip on power? Algeria, where power has long been firmly consolidated in a deep state, has seen mass peaceful protests since February 22. What started […]

Stakes in Iraq: U.S. and Iran vie for power

The United States’ tough stance on Iran has left many nations in a fix. Iraq is among those most afflicted by the battle for influence – and it remains to be seen whether Iran or the U.S. will prevail. When it comes to American foreign policy, few publications are as gung-ho as the Wall Street […]

Three Lessons Tunisia Can Teach Brexit Britain About Building Consensus

Tunisia’s example offers three important lessons on how to solve divisive political issues like Brexit: consensus should incorporate societal interests beyond government; pressure is helpful, not harmful; and it takes prestigious personalities to mediate a solution. As deadline follows deadline over Brexit, the issue polarizes British society like few issues have for decades. The House […]

A Divided Continent

Africa is deeply polarized between political and economic extremes. Some of the clouds on the horizon may prove to have silver linings. The African Union has a key role to play in transforming the region into a continent of opportunity. At the 32nd Summit of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa on 10-11 February, […]

Elections in Libya: The Difficult Way Ahead

The Libya conference in Palermo has ended in a renewed push for elections in the crisis-ridden country. But is Libya really in a fit state to deliver on this commitment? Since the fall of Gaddafi’s regime in 2011, Libya has had three distinct electoral experiences, which have in turn given birth to three political institutions: […]

The New Turkey: Erdoğan’s Personal Fief

Uncertainty abounds ahead of Turkey’s election. Will a floundering economy spell the end for President Tayyip Erdoğan? After an a series of steps towards liberalization between 2002 and 2012, Turkey’s AKP government showed its teeth in 2013: It announced plans to build a shopping mall on Gezi Park – one of the last green parts […]

Partially Blurred Image of Iran on a Map

Compliance for a Treaty, Credibility for Partnership

So he really did it. On May 8, US President Donald Trump decided that the economic sanctions against Iran suspended under the multilateral nuclear agreement should be resumed and even tightened and unilaterally terminated the agreement. Europeans should try to save the deal – and someone should explain to Trump the diplomatic ABC of the […]

Presidential Elections in Egypt: A Sense of Déjà-vu

Egyptians vote for their next president from March 26-28, 2018. According to the National Election Authority, more than 59 million voters are registered for this election. But do they have a choice? Remember Egypt’s last presidential elections in May 2014 when Abdel Fattah al-Sisi got 97% of all votes? When only one opponent, Hamdeen Sabahi, […]

The Regional Proxy War in Yemen: Deadly Interferences

Yemen is suffering one of the world’s largest humanitarian catastrophes. To resolve it, it is necessary to look beyond the national conflict. Yemen’s civil war is complex. It’s a violent conflict between competing Yemeni factions, each of which is allying itself with regional, sectarian, tribal and Islamist groups. The country has a long history of instability and […]

Moving the German Anti-IS Troops from Turkey to Jordan: A Jump from the Frying Pan into the Fire?

In response to Turkey’s decision to block visits of German parliamentarians, Bundeswehr troops are about to pull out from the Turkish air base in Incirlik in July. But will Jordan be a more reliable host? After months of internal discussions and negotiations with their Turkish counterparts, the German government decided on June 7, 2017 to […]

Talking Truth to Turkey

How scientific analysis can help countering President Erdogan’s fake narrative of Turkey’s thriving democracy and why the European Union should reconsider its policy towards EU accession countries. In his official message for Europe Day on 9 May 2017, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that his country “which has been a part of Europe historically, […]

As Populists Rise in the West, Arab Autocrats Rejoice

The decay of democratic norms in European and U.S. policy-making plays into the hands of autocratic leaders in the Middle East and North Africa. While Prime Minister Theresa May officially announced the United Kingdom’s intention to leave the EU on 29 March 2017, and constant leaks and news from the White House about President Donald […]

A Last day of Hajj - all pilgrims leaving Mina, many already in Mecca for farewell circumambulation of Kaaba
Government buildings in Tunis

Is Tunisia’s 2014 Constitution Already Obsolete?

Tunisia – often lauded for its democratic development after the Arab Spring – is engulfed in a political power struggle and personal rivalries between office holders. Now the country’s constitution is increasingly coming under threat. More than one year and a half after the legislative and presidential elections in Tunisia in October and November 2014, […]

Partially Blurred Image of Iran on a Map

Iran: Euphoria Following the Nuclear Deal Has Passed

Four months on from the reformist victory in the double election and five months after the closing of the nuclear deal new prospects for Iran have opened up on the international stage. Yet, a climate of insecurity in the Islamic Republic remains and the country stays unpredictable. On 26 February 2016, Iranians went to the […]

Refugee Camp with lots of tents at the Turkish-Syrian border.

Turkey: No Future for Refugees

Despite many official claims, Turkey cannot be considered a safe country – neither for migrants nor for its own citizens. Without effective rights-based policies, agreements like the EU-Turkey deal are of no practical consequence for refugees living on the Bosporus. This article is part of our “Migration & Transformation” series. Many governments and civil societies […]

Syrian primary school children attending catch-up learning classes in Lebanon

“Lebanon has Good Practices to Convey to Europe”

Lebanon currently shelters one of the largest Syrian refugee populations in the world. Political scientist Tamirace Fakhoury talks about how her home country deals with the challenges and what Europe might learn from it. This article is part of our “Migration & Transformation” series. Many governments and civil societies in developing and transition countries are […]

Air strike in Sana'a

Trapped in Yemen

Long time, Yemen was mainly a stop-over for African migrants to the Gulf states. With the war in Yemen entering its second year, migratory flows have reversed. While thousands – East Africans and Yemenis – flee the country, many remain trapped in the humanitarian and political disaster on the Arabian Peninsula. This article is part […]

Construction workers along the Nile river in Luxor, Egypt © Dominic Chavez/World Bank (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

How to Overcome Authoritarianism in the Arab Economy

Getting rid of autocracy in the Middle East and North Africa is not just a challenge for politics. The economic sector too suffers under the stranglehold of the “nanny-state”. How to overcome it, depends very much on where you start from. From his own experience in office almost a year after the overthrow of the […]

Richard Youngs © Institut Europeu de la Mediterrània via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

“Thinking only about Security is not a Long Term Solution”

Responding to signals of democratic decline, the Club de Madrid has launched a two-year, multi-stakeholder process with the goal of enabling democracy to better meet the expectations and needs of all citizens while securing a sustainable future for generations to come. Following the inauguration of the Next Generation Democracy project, BTI Blog speaks with Richard Youngs […]

Protester in Istanbul, September 2013 © Tophee via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Judicial Defense

Turkey is deeply split between supporters of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the opposition. The constitutional court remains one of the few buffers between them. But is this enough to uphold democracy? In Turkey’s local elections at the end of March, the ruling Development and Justice Party (AKP) won a landslide victory gaining 45.6 […]

© SERGEY NVENS / fotolia.com

The Art of Comparing Economic Growth

Turkey’s government argues that the economy has grown threefold during the past ten years. Are these numbers misleading the voters for the purpose of self-promotion? Comparison is an art. Just as statistics is the art of lying, comparison is the art of demoralizing. Theodore Roosevelt, often seen as one of the best U.S. presidents, once […]

The BTI team: Sabine Donner, Hauke Hartmann, Sabine Steinkamp & Robert Schwarz (from left to right) © Bock & Gärtner

The Frog Jumps out of the Well

Tunisia, the BTI’s most-improved in democratic transformation (jumping from rank 100 in the BTI 2012 to rank 64 in the BTI 2014), has managed its transformation process like the frog who made it out of the well by taking two steps forward and one step back. After approving the constitution and establishing a new caretaker […]