Upheaval And Renewal In Egypt And Syria

1982 words - 8 pages

According to Cleveland, the concept of ‘upheval and renewal’ can be considered a common feature for the countries in the Middle East in the 1970s. After the formation of independent states, one can notice a general tendence in Arab republics towards the consolidation of their power. This essay aims at comparing and contrasting this process in Egypt and Syria starting from 1970, year in which both countries saw the coming into power of new leaders, Anwar Sadat and Hafiz Al-Asad, and a subsequent change from the previous regime’s policies. Given the shortage of space and the complexity of the matter, the focus will be only on the most evident aspects of authoritarian power consolidation under those two leaders without going too much into the details. First the essay will address the implementation of the “corrective revolution” in both countries, then the use of the party and the patronage system to ensure loyalty to the regime, the relationship with the military, and the relationship with the religious groups. Lastly the focus will be on Al-Asad’s cult of personality and the Egyptian use of elections as opposite ways to legitimise the regime.
In 1970 the new leaders in Syria and Egypt had to face the problem of gathering support from society. The Egyptian President Sadat was considered not worthy of taking the place of Nasser, by both the exponents of the regime, and the other Arab countries. Nasser’s regime was starting to fall apart and the institutions were becoming possible rivals for the President. The one-party system did not leave room to any opposition and the security and the military were the protagonists on the political stage . In order to consolidate his authoritarian power, Sadat understood that he needed to cultivate a stong constituency to support him. He thus implemented the ‘Corrective Revolution’ or Infitah: a number of reforms aiming at liberalising the economy. As Cook suggests, ‘there was as much political purpose to Infitah as there was an economic rationale’ . The main purpose was not creating a liberal democracy, but acquiring the business classes’ support that would beneficiate from a freer market even though still under the state’s control.
In Syria, Al-Asad being part of the Alawite minority, had to face the Sunni Muslim opposition which disapproved the appointment of Alawites to most positions in the regime. Furthermore, the President’s rural origin signed the emergence of a new class to the detriment of the old urban notables . To broaden his support Al-Asad put in place a ‘corrective revolution’ similar to Sadat’s one, moderating Ba’th’s socialism. Both his origin and the seeking of popular support layed at the bases of his interventionism in agriculture, making Syria a major cotton producer. The combination of state intervention and private sector, together with oil revenues made Syrian economy considerably grow in the 1970s . But the distinguishing feature of Al-Asad’s revolution is the use of ‘populist...

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