Since December 2010, the Arab world witnessed major uprisings calling for change and democratization. Some ossified political regimes cracked down after the revolutions, other countries are still waiting for the right moment and others went through an unstoppable bleeding civil war. But in all these cases, no leadership figures emerged, neither charismatic individual, thus making those revolutions leaderless. If they succeeded in the short run, will they be able to continue leaderless in the long run?
These uprisings that swept the region evolved with the social media horizontal diffusion. The latter made them very difficult to break with the organic strength of the diversity and the flexibility. Social media were capable of building networks thus making this revolution special in a way since it is not dominated by political parties or trade unions. It was successful basing itself on numbers of followers that increased though random growth, meritorious growth, and preferential attachment, ceteris paribus type of growth, giving rise to scale free networks.
These movements broke the traditional top-down movement. They were driven by the common cry “enough of the old order” and their desire for representation. They also were inspired by their dream of ending corruption and achieving true democracy. Wael Ghonim said :
“Our revolution is like Wikipedia, okay? Everyone is contributing content, [but] you don’t know the names of the people contributing the content. This is exactly what happened. Revolution 2.0 in Egypt was exactly the same. Everyone is contributing small pieces, bits and pieces. We drew this whole picture of a revolution. And no one is the hero in that picture.”
But even if the uprisings were successful and capable of toppling down the president, no revolutionary leadership was present. The outcome of the leaderless revolutions started to be felt with the results of the Tunisian and Egyptian elections. In Egypt today, the military responded to people’s demands, took power and promised democratic elections soon. The revolts sparked the world for the leaderless nature. But can we achieve restoration, democratization without a leader? Did anybody asked who would or could be a potential President?
Thirty years of oppression under Mubarak’s regime led to a state of no legally allowed opposition. Yet, de facto, many ideas were growing in secret or even less in public but fearfully. These opposing and freedom seeker ideas grew up to a certain extent where they became bigger to dissolve together and smaller to unite and form a rigid revolutionary group. The fact that the people witnessed overnight freedom and liberty led to a fragmented revolution with many figures being potential leader and/or president. Also, as in different Arab countries, extremists groups had a fertile soil to grow which added to the diversity in the already fragmented revolutionary groups. This diversified revolution was made of controversial parties that could not stand together which lead to a leaderless revolution first and a second leaderless revolution on it one year after. And thus, today difficulties are emerging in finding leadership to change. The quality of leaderless-ness is not desirable especially with the Islamic extremists growing up and spreading to become metastasis inside nations.
The latter formed a trend that was duplicated in many countries but fuelled in Syria starting 2011. The leaderless-ness made it easier today for the bloody conflict to aggravate between the regimes and its opponents. The opposition itself in Syria is divided between controversial groups and ideologies, some favoring peaceful negotiations and transitions, others went all the way using religious tools to try to achieve “their” agendas and the rest not knowing who to support. Those are people who originally were against the autocratic regime found themselves in front of some jihadi groups, torturing and violating basic human rights and others divided, fragmented with no democratic political agenda. And thus people rather than advocating for a leader, who can bring positive democratic change for Syria, tend to support Bashar Al Assad again in order to escape the extremist’s nightmare.
Today, Arab revolutions are not producing ideologies, demands and leaders. The people want the system to fall and when there is no other system to replace it, why should it fall in the first place? The oppositions and the architects of the revolution should realize that it is a necessity to develop solid alternatives or the downfall of the system will not make their countries a better place.
Leaderless revolutions used to fascinate many but proved to be the wrong substitute for the status quo. Only under wise leadership of a prominent leader, the broad section of the people can awaken and they would be able to organize themselves and form the political force.