Grievances, Opportunity and Protest in Four Arab States
33 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2012 Last revised: 5 Sep 2012
Date Written: 2012
Using data from the Arab Barometer, we assess the protest participation between 2005-08 in Algeria, Jordan, Morocco, and Yemen. We find protests were common during the years preceding the Arab Spring and the riskier form of protesting (marching in a demonstration) was approximately 1.5 to 2 times as common as the less risky form of protest (signing a petition), despite the dangers of voicing dissent in authoritarian regimes. We propose grievance and opportunity explanations of why people protested. We find support for economic grievance arguments connecting protest to income and corruption, but not to macro-economic policies. We find support for political grievance arguments connecting protest to exclusion from power and desire for democracy. We also find support for the argument that people are most likely to protest when they do not fear government reprisals. None of the arguments, however, have significant explanatory power in more than two of the four countries, suggesting that even in seemingly similar authoritarian regimes, people protest for different reasons. The propensity to seek a single explanation should be resisted.
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