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Elite Survival and the Arab Spring: The Cases of Tunisia and Egypt


The article compares the survival of old regime elites in Tunisia and Egypt after the 2011 uprisings and analyses its enabling factors. Although democracy progressed in Tunisia and collapsed in Egypt, the countries show similarities in the old elite’s ability to survive the Arab Spring. In both cases, the popular uprisings resulted in the type of elite circulation that John Higley and György Lengyel refer to as ‘quasi-replacement circulation’, which is sudden and coerced, but narrow and shallow. To account for this converging outcome, the chapter foregrounds the instability, economic decline and information uncertainty in the countries post-uprising and the navigating resources, which the old elites possessed. The roots of the quasi-replacement circulation are traced to the old elites’ privileged access to money, network, the media and, for Egypt, external support. Only parts of the structures of authority in a political regime are formal. The findings show the importance of evaluating regime change in a broader view than the formal institutional set-up. In Tunisia and Egypt, the informal structures of the anciens régimes survived – so did the old regime elites.


  • Midtøsten og Nord-Afrika
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