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Talk of spring
Protests are making a comeback in the Arab world
But there are reasons they haven’t gone viral
Middle East & Africa
Mar 23rd 2019 edition
Mar 21st 2019
T
he mantra of the Arab spring is back. “The people want the regime to go,” chant hundreds of thousands of protesters in Algeria, hoping to end the 20-year rule of Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Their cries are echoed in Sudan, where three months of demonstrations have rattled the regime of Omar al-Bashir, the leader for three decades. Protesters in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and the Palestinian territories have also demanded better governance of late. Five years after the region’s authoritarians silenced it, the Arab street is regaining its voice.
This has prompted talk of an Arab-spring sequel. As in 2011, the protests have been spontaneous, inclusive and bereft of leadership. The same grievances fuel today’s unrest. But the context could not be more different. The wars and chaos that followed the Arab spring have cooled the ardour of activists and their regional patrons. Meanwhile, autocrats have sharpened their tools of repression in order to quash protests at home and stop those elsewhere from spreading. “They have rewired the entire region trying to prevent another Arab spring,” says Marc Lynch of George Washington University.
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