Explaining Middle Eastern Authoritarianism

by Marcus Noland, Peterson Institute for International Economics

June 2005
Revised June 2006

Marcus NolandThe ubiquity of stable, undemocratic political regimes in the Middle East is unique. The most important determinants of democracy in the Middle East North Africa region are modernization, British colonial history, the democratic status of neighbors, the share of taxes in government revenue, and Arab ethnic population share (the last is subject to multiple interpretations). But a number of other hypotheses lack explanatory power: the presence of oil rents, the status of women, conflict with Israel or other neighbors, and Muslim population share. Across the region, the odds on liberalizing political transitions are relatively low but rising.

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