Date of Award

Summer 8-11-2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science

First Advisor

Michael Herb

Second Advisor

Syed Naim

Third Advisor

Peter Lindsay

Fourth Advisor

Abbas Barzegar


With the exception of Tunisia, there are no democracies in the Arab world. This paper attempts to the address why that is the case. The paper focuses on some possible answers. Islam, oil, and Western intervention are seen as obstacles to democracy. I argue that another factor is being overlooked. These variables may answer the question, but secular elites are the most serous obstacle to democracy in the Arab world.

I focus on Algeria and Palestine briefly, showing the secular parties response to electoral defeat and the intervention of the West. I also explore Egypt and Tunisia and the secular elites response to Islamist winning elections.

I find that secular elites are an important obstacle to democracy hindrance, but not in all cases.