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Whatever happened to the Arab Spring?

Three years on, the old Arab order remains and the democratic transition is still distant.
An electoral worker shows an invalid ballot, on which a voter has marked with multiple crosses and written "void" next to both candidates, after polls closed in Cairo June 17, 2012. Egyptians began an anxious wait for their first freely elected president on Sunday after two days of voting that was to be the culmination of their Arab Spring revolution but which many fear may now only compound political and economic uncertainty. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh  (EGYPT - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS) - RTR33SJ4

Three years after the Arab Spring, the dominant narrative about this region remains articulated in terms of binary opposites: vanishing republics versus resilient monarchies, the secular versus Islamist divide and the Sunni versus Shiite schism.

While not denying the violent manifestations of these opposites, it is time to go beyond the apparent multiple polarizations that conceal a fundamental truth, namely the collapse or near-collapse of an old republican and monarchical order without successfully moving toward a new, stable configuration. Even after three years of protest and bloodshed in the republics and low-level mobilization in the monarchies, the Arab world is still far from shaking off the old order or a stable transition toward something that I would call democracy.

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