This document is a subsection of New Media and Social Movements > Arab Spring

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The Arab Spring: Outcomes to Date

Through digital media, the stories of success in Tunisia and Egypt have spread over social networks to many other authoritarian regimes. Digital media has not only caused a cascade of civil disobedience to spread among populations living under the most unflappable dictators, it has made for unique new means of civic organizing.

During the heady days of protests in Cairo, one activist succinctly tweeted about why digital media was so important to the organization of political unrest. “We use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world,” she said. The protesters openly acknowledge the role of digital media as a fundamental infrastructure for their work. Moammar Gadhafi’s former aides have advised him to submit his resignation through Twitter.

It is difficult to know when the Arab Spring will end, but we can already say something about the political casualties and long-term regional consequences of digitally enabled political protest. (More on Understanding the Cascading Effects)

Libya Post Revolution

As the National Transitional Council (NTC) re-establishes order and builds a new system of governance following the collapse of the Qadhafi regime, political uncertainty will remain high.

The NTC has set out plans for the transition process and in August issued a temporary constitution. A Tripoli-based interim government will be set up, which will lead the country to elections within 20 months.

The Economist Intelligence Unit's Libyan outlook for 2012-16 1

  • Political uncertainty will remain high for the foreseeable future as the National Transitional Council (NTC) seeks to re-establish order and build a new system of governance following the collapse of the Qadhafi regime.
  • The NTC has set out detailed plans for the transition process and in August issued a temporary constitution. It plans to set up a Tripoli-based interim government, which will lead the country to elections within 20 months.
  • We expect that there will be some delays and setbacks to the transition process owing to political disputes and security issues, but this will not derail the NTC's overall programme.
  • Economic policy in the post-Qadhafi era is likely to combine a heavy central government role in reconstruction with market-oriented reforms.
  • We estimate that the Libyan economy will have contracted by 28% in 2011 as a result of a steep fall in oil production and exports.
  • We estimate that the fall in oil output will have resulted in a fiscal deficit of 8.1% of GDP in 2011. The effects of lower exports will be partly mitigated by lower spending as a result of the paralysis of much of the government.

Arab papers on the battle for Libya

Reactions in the Arab press to the fighting in Libya (See complete article here):

Sataa Nourreddine reflects the optimism in the Middle East at present in an article in in the Lebanese newspaper, Assafir:
  • "It is the second birth of Libya and its scorned, oppressed and outcast people, who seemed to outsiders to be but comical copies of the olonel and his sons. Libya is now teeming with talent and ambition, offering an attractive image of itself to the world. Even at the height of its street fighting, the rules of engagement have seldom been violated. There has been no descent into a Lebanese- or Iraqi-style civil war, despite the provocations. Perhaps Tripoli will be a witness to the Libyan revolution opening a bright chapter in Libyan history, which will see it return to the family of nations."

Others remain more cynical. In al-Shorouk, an independent Egyptian daily, Salamh Ahmad Salamah criticises the gleeful anticipation abroad of the Second Republic:
  • "Within days, major countries will start deliberating the fate of Libya and its vast wealth and resources. Egypt and the Arab League are clueless. They are dealing with what is happening with their eyes half-shut, while America, France and Britain are racing to get into the good graces of the new regime and provide it with aid, all the while claiming that they are preparing the new Libya for democracy."

Egypt Post Revolution

The collapse of the Mubarak regime will result in a extended period of political instability, but a more stable system should eventually emerge.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) is leading the transition and has committed to culminate the process with parliamentary and presidential elections.

The Economist Intelligence Unit's Egypt outlook for 2012-16EIU

  • The future direction of economic policy is unclear. Some of the liberalisation policies pursued by Mubarak-era governments may be revived, but there may also be a shift towards a more populist agenda and greater centralisation.
  • We expect real GDP to grow by 3.4% in 2011/12 (July-June) owing to a positive base effect in the second half of the fiscal year. Growth will average 5.1% over the forecast period.
  • Higher spending and a fall in receipts pushed the fiscal deficit up to an estimated 10% of GDP in 2010/11. We expect the deficit to widen to 10.3% of GDP in 2011/12, before edging downwards thereafter.
  • The Egyptian pound will have depreciated in 2011 owing to capital outflows, but we expect the currency to strengthen from 2012.
  • The current-account deficit will have narrowed in 2011 as a result of a smaller trade deficit. This is likely to widen in 2012, but we expect the current-account position to improve over the remainder of the forecast period.

Tunisia Post Revolution

The election of a National Constituent Assembly (NCA) probably will not bring an end to social unrest. Protests are expected to continue until a new government is in place.

The NCA will be responsible for rewriting the constitution and organizing presidential and parliamentary elections at the end of 2012. It will also establish a new interim government and elect a new temporary president.

The Economist Intelligence Unit's Tunisia outlook for 2012-16EIU.

  • Islamist parties will secure a position in Tunisian politics and government but will have to share power with other major political parties. However, a big win for Islamists will add more weight to their policies.
  • We expect the government to pursue an expansionary fiscal policy in the forecast period in order to boost growth. The budget deficit is estimated to have widened to 9.1% of GDP in 2011 but will average 4.7% in 2012-16.
  • We have revised down our GDP forecast for 2012 in light of the worsening economic conditions in the EU. Growth will be moderate in 2012, following a contraction in 2011, but will rise from 2013 onwards, averaging 4.2% in 2012-16.
  • The current-account deficit is expected to have widened substantially in 2011 owing to declining tourism revenue. The current account will remain in deficit for the forecast period, averaging 4.5% of GDP in 2012-16

The Legal Enabling Environment for Independent Media in Egypt and Tunisia

Popular protests have toppled dictatorships in Egypt and Tunisia, creating opportunities for transitions to genuine democracy. The window of opportunity to reform the legal regulatory environment for independent media will not be open long, and civil society activists, with the support and expertise of the international community, must take advantage of this opportunity quickly before it dissipates. Transitional governments in both states are showing signs of the same authoritarianism from which the two countries suffered for decades, especially in the realm of freedom of expression and information.

Civil society in both countries needs capacity-building support and expertise from the international community to move forward in the transition process, but this is contested in Egypt. The issue of what to do with the massive state-owned media institutions remains a priority, and the propagation of independent media outlets will have a great impact on the direction of the transition. The training and professionalization of journalists will help them overcome a culture of self-censorship and make new governments accountable to the people in these fledgling democracies. (More on CIMA special report...)

Challenges of the Egypt Transition

  • End the state of emergency.
  • Embark on a nationwide dialogue to amend the constitution.
  • Ensure that the process is widely participatory and inclusive of all political forces in Egypt
  • Revoke laws restricting political freedoms while supporting human rights
  • Reach an agreement among all relevant players (including the emerging youth movement, the military, Mubarak’s party, the Muslim Brotherhood, etc.) that democracy is going to be the new form of government and a commitment to abide by the rules of that system.

Challenges of the Tunisian Transition

Tunisia's advantages include a sizeable middle class, an ethnically and religiously homogenous and educated population, a civil society including powerful trade unions, a non-political military, close ties with the former colonial power France, with Italy, and proximity to the EU. (More on Tunisia's elections will map out a path for the Arab spring)

  • Composition of the new government as opposition leaders have not been allocated any of the key ministries: the defense, interior and foreign portfolios all remain in the hands of figures from the ruling Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD).
  • Concern lies with the extent of the state-centric business empires that are owned or run by the people who were forced to flee the country. Uncertainty of these people future adds complications to the next government.
  • Deep renewal of government officials would leave gaps in the management, institutional memory, personal and business relationships which are needed to run a country - and the economy - as political transition progresses.


The regional unrest has not been limited to countries of the Arab world. The early success of uprisings in North Africa was inspired by the uprisings of disenchanted people in the Middle Eastern states of Iran and Turkey to take to the streets and agitate for reforms. These protests, especially those in Iran, are considered by many commentators to be part of the same wave that began in Iran and later Tunisia and has gripped the broader Middle Eastern and North African regions.

In the countries of the neighboring South Caucasus—namely Armenia, Azerbaijan,and Georgia—as well as some countries in Europe, including Albania, Croatia, and Spain; countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including Burkina Faso, Djibouti, and Uganda; and countries in other parts of Asia, including the Maldives and the People's Republic of China, demonstrators and opposition figures claiming inspiration from the examples of Tunisia and Egypt have staged their own popular protests.

The 15 October 2011 global protests and the Occupy Wall Street movement, which started in the United States and has since spread to Asia and Europe, drew direct inspiration from the Arab Spring, with organizers asking U.S. citizens "Are you ready for a Tahrir moment?"The protesters have committed to using the "revolutionary Arab Spring tactic" to achieve their goals of curbing corporate power and control in Western governments. (More on the Impact of the Arab Spring)

References and Resources

1 Economist Intelligence Unit, 'Outlook for 2012-16', Libya Highlights, October 10th 2011