It looks bad. It looks like Bahrain & Saudi Arabia have taken their cue from Gaddafi. Their troops have been firing on & in many cases killing so-call protestors. It can certainly be successful in the short term. It can keep the lid on unrest. Having elections & allowing people to have their say is the other way. Either states have to have forces of repression, secret police, special prisons for dissenters, state control of the press or safety valves. Or there is certain amount of freedom, so-called repressive tolerance.
At first it sort of looked as though people coming out into the streets were going to change the status quo. It doesn’t now. It did look as though freedom & democracy would spread like a virus but instead it is the organs of repression that have come to life. Power is something that the people holding it seem to find hard to give up. In the case of the dictators in North Africa & the Middle East one suspects that it is because large, very large sums of money have been spirited away in Swiss bank accounts, bank accounts elsewhere for example London & invested in prestigious property all round the World. Presumably they, the dictators, are worried about the consequences if their fraudulent actions come to light & see holding onto to power as the only way of avoiding such an eventuality. In the West leaders are often glad to hand over power, when the time comes, they feel relieved to be no longer burdened with responsibility. If & when corrupt dictators fall from grace & from power, there is no guarantee that someone just as bad won’t take over, at least in the end.
The acid test really is if governments hold elections & lose, whether there is a peaceful transition. Africa is blighted by corrupt dictators but there are exceptions & Western style liberal democracies do seem to be taking a hold in parts of the continent. The last election in Ghana did see a peaceful handing over of power. Interesting that Kwame Nkrumah was the first of Africa’s dictators & now Ghana is one of the first genuinely democratic African countries. There was much rejoicing when Nkrumah fell from power but still it has taken a decade or 2 for Ghana to become a fully fledged democracy..
Somehow one just doesn’t see North Africa & the Middle East suddenly becoming havens for Western style liberal democracies, at least not yet.