2012: The Year of Counter-Revolution?

By Leon Hadar

The outgoing 2011 is the Year of the Protester, according to Time Magazine. The insurgency targeting the ruling political elites, first in Tunisia, and then in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain, has not been confined to the Middle East. Protests have taken place in Spain, Greece, Italy, France, Britain and Israel. And in the United States, the Occupy Wall Street protesters began demonstrating first in New York, and then in Washington, Chicago, and in other cities across the country.

The 2011 global uprisings against the status quo have been compared to the revolutions that swept through Europe in 1848, when working-class socialists and middle-class liberals in Paris, Milan, Vienna, Prague, Budapest and Berlin tried to bring down the old regimes.

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And indeed, not unlike the Spring of Nations of 1848, the Arab Spring and the ensuing protests in New York's Zuccotti Park or Tel Aviv's Rothschild Avenue have raised expectations for change and the forging of a new order based on the principles of freedom and equality.

But with the benefit of hindsight, the 1848 revolutions are seen as failures. The old social and political order remained in power. So is it possible that the rebellions of 2011 could also leave some disappointment behind in 2012 if and when the members of the old order start fighting back to protect the status quo just like the counter-revolutionaries in 1849?

Of course, history does not repeat itself. But some of the reasons that led to the expiration of the revolutionary momentum in Europe after 1849 - tensions between and inside the opposition movements, the lack of wide public support and the enormous power retained by the ruling elites - could also end up stalling the pressure for change in 2012. Come the Counter-Revolution?

In the Middle East, expect the military to reassert its power and force fragile and precarious ruling coalitions with the rising Islamist movement. Expect Saudi Arabia and Turkey, with the support of the US and its allies, to lead an effort aimed at re-establishing a delicate regional status quo that protects Israel.

In the West, centrist political parties will contain the pressure for reining in the financial markets and take baby steps to reform the bloated welfare state. Washington will count more and more on its partners worldwide to help sustain its global interests.

The fall of the Arab nationalist rulers of Tunisia (Zine El Abidine Ben Ali), Egypt (Hosni Mubarak), Libya (Muammar Gaddafi) and Yemen (Ali Abdullah Saleh) in 2011 could be followed by the collapse of the Assad regime in Syria in 2012. But it has already become clear in 2011 that the secular, liberal and social-democratic members of the Arab opposition are not going to emerge as winners in the post-revolutionary struggle for power.

Indeed, the elections that took place in Egypt and Tunisia have demonstrated that the young, multilingual and Internet-savvy spokesmen for the revolution who had become prominent on Al Jazeera and CNN television coverage from Tahrir Square lack any strong base of electoral support.

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Dr. Leon Hadar is is a global affairs analyst, journalist, blogger and author. This piece was originally published in the Singapore Business Times and is republished with permission.

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