Reform is a politically charged issue in the Middle East. Governments admit change is necessary, but do not want to surrender power. Opposition groups want democracy, but cannot generate sufficient momentum. The Bush administration’s “freedom agenda” has brought the issue into focus but blurred the distinction between democracy promotion and forceful regime change. 

Some governments have taken steps toward political reform. Are these meaningful changes, or empty attempts to pacify domestic and international public opinion? How do we distinguish reforms that alter the character of the political system from those that are only window dressing? 

Beyond the Façade: Political Reform in the Arab World evaluates the changes that are taking place in the region and explores the potential for further reform.  The essays provide careful, detailed examinations of ten countries, highlighting the diversity of processes and problems. Beyond the Facade forces us to recognize the reality of conflicting interests and the limitations of external actors to bring about political reform, while drawing lessons on how to make international democracy promotion more effective.

About the Editors

Marina Ottaway is a senior associate in the Democracy and Rule of Law Program and director of the Carnegie Middle East Program. Her most recent book, Uncharted Journey: Promoting Democracy in the Middle East (co-edited with Thomas Carothers), was published in January 2005.

Julia Choucair-Vizoso is a former associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C.  She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at Yale University. Her research focuses on the possibility of democratic change in the Arab world, with attention to political, economic, and social reform trends in the region.

Reviews for this publication

"This superb collection traces the empirical reality of political reform in the Arab world, recounting the experience of ten countries in a coherent, concise, and consistently insightful fashion."
Foreign Affairs

“A significant and needed contribution ... the only volume which addresses political reform across the Arab world with country chapters written by leading specialists.”
—Robert Springborg, MBI Al Jaber Chair in Middle East Studies and director, London Middle East Institute, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

Beyond the Façade is a non-ideological and therefore faithful, well argued, and well documented answer to a question more open than ever: what is the future of politics in that most sensitive part of the world?”
—Ghassan Salamé, Professor of International Relations, Institut d'études politique de Paris, and former minister of culture, Lebanon