Egypt vs. Saudi Arabia: Alternative Paths to the Arab Spring

How Historical Precedent Affects the Trajectory of Social Turmoil

  • Kaleigh Alexandra Calvao Student
Keywords: Arab Spring


Why did Egypt experience an Arab Spring that led to regime change, while Saudi Arabia had limited protests and maintained stability? How did these different “Arab Springs” affect the country’s political regimes? This research paper will argue that Egypt experienced protests during the Arab Spring, primarily due to the country’s history during the 1950-1970s under the leadership of Gamal Abdel Nasser. Nasser created a historical precedent of radical regime change, his leadership created a powerful politically involved military-security apparatus, and he instilled ideas of nationalism, socialism, and secularism which would lead to liberalized and democratic principles entering Egyptian society in the future. This research paper will argue how these factors have caused Egypt’s historical trajectory to be caught between repression and democracy, leading to a failed democratic uprising in 2011 and the authoritarianism military regime that subsequently followed.

Contrastingly, Saudi Arabia did not experience an Arab Spring. The country’s leaders during the 1950s-1970s were King Saud followed by King Faisal, who both had regimes that represented monarchical rule, close control over the military, and leadership guided by conservative theological principles which created a repressed, but stable society. Therefore, the Arab Spring was limited and there was no regime change. This paper will also explain how the economy, influence of oil, and impact of international actors (namely the United States), were not the pivotal variables that explain Egypt’s Arab Spring, and lack thereof in Saudi Arabia.