June 26, 2012, 6:48 p.m.
The Brookings Doha Center and Stanford University Center on Democracy, Development and Rule of Law present the report "Voting for Change: The Pitfalls and Possibilities of First Elections in Arab Transitions."
Elections that follow dramatic downfalls of authoritarian regimes present policymakers with difficult choices. They are an opportunity to establish a sound basis for democratization, putting in place institutions and strengthening actors that help guarantee free and fair elections. Yet such elections are part of a high-stakes conflict over the future that takes place in a context of enormous uncertainty, as new actors emerge, old elites remake themselves, and the public engages in politics in new and unpredictable ways.
Published in May 2012, this paper focuses on the first two countries to hold elections after the Arab Spring, Egypt and Tunisia. Author Ellen Lust hopes to gain a better insight into how the international community can best approach these "first elections" in a transitioning Arab world. In order to gain this insight, Lust looks into the different challenges each country must face in regarding their own unique democratic transition. Specifically, she looks at leveling the playing fielding, managing a new electoral process and providing sustainable outcomes. In turn, this leads her to believe that the examination of these early cases will better prepare the international community for dealing with the democratic transitions occurring in other Arab states (such as Libya.) By studying these cases, Lust provides suggestions for how the international community should approach these elections as well as prioritize their activities and goals.