MENA has a higher number of monarchies compared to other regions in the world. To explain this, we must look at the different types of monarchies- rentier monarchies, non-rentier monarchies, and failed monarchies. There have been successes, as well as extreme failures, with monarchies in the region. Looking at rent, coercion, timing, and religion can explain why certain monarchies persist.


There are a multitude of reasons for revolt: the youth bulge, employment, citizenship, corruption, identity splits, etc. However, when you are witnessing your neighbors be repressed, kidnapped, tortured, and killed, you accept the current regime. Monarchies can respond in several ways: projects, economic diversification, appeals to legitimacy, external support, and violent repression. Monarchies respond in a more coercive way because they value power over people. They see their citizens as subjects. 


All states maintain a balance of coercion and legitimacy. Both processes are expensive, especially coercion. Rentier states (The GCC states) have more funds than their non-rentier neighbors. These states can use their funds for either purpose. In the case of Bahrain, the government used funds for coercion (violent repression). However, while there were uprisings in the GCC states they were not as significant as those in the failed states, especially Tunisia and Libya. This is because the GCC states had time on their hands. Their uprisings were months after the origin of the uprisings, which occurred in Tunisia. Many people saw the effects of the failed states and did not want that to happen to their country.


The non-rentier states used time to their advantage as well. The Jordanian king wanted citizens to know he was listening and that there would be reforms coming. However, these reforms were delayed. The Jordanian citizens watched as Libya collapsed, and they were grateful that King Abdullah II was listening to them. A year later, minimal reforms came, but the people were still content that they were not a failed state. 


Having all of the uprisings occur at the same time was both a disadvantage and an advantage to the monarchs of this region. While it encouraged political participation, when things were dire people realized that it could be their country next. 


While we have seen revolutions against monarchies, there has to be some legitimacy within them. The history of Islam and having a cultural leader (or figure) may also explain why monarchies are prevalent in the region. Many people in a parliamentary monarchy see the royal family as a symbol. Most monarchies in MENA do not have complete political control. Their rule may be symbolic to the people and their religious history.


Many monarchies play on the sectarian differences within the region. Some Sunni rules oversee a Shiite majority. During the uprisings, rulers would call them “Shiite uprisings” to delegitimize the cause. They also declared Iran was behind them. Countries with American influence have encouraged this divide since these divisions did not use to exist. Saudi Arabia uses this tactic frequently.


Monarchies are exceptional in MENA. However, it is not just because they are monarchies. They have used the right amount of coercion, at the right time, and appealed to the right amount of tradition. Successful monarchies in this region are complex, with only a few surviving. The conditions must be perfect for the regime to rule.


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