Resilient Royals: How Arab Monarchies Hang On

Content from the Brookings Doha Center is now archived. In September 2021, after 14 years of impactful partnership, Brookings and the Brookings Doha Center announced that they were ending their affiliation. The Brookings Doha Center is now the Middle East Council on Global Affairs, a separate public policy institution based in Qatar.

No monarchy fell to revolution in the Arab Spring. What accounts for this monarchical exceptionalism? Analysts have argued that royal autocracies are inherently more resilient than authoritarian republics due to their cultural foundations and institutional structure. By contrast, this paper leverages comparative analysis to offer a different explanation emphasizing deliberate regime strategies made in circumstances of geographic fortuity. The mobilization of cross-cutting coalitions, hydrocarbon wealth, and foreign patronage accounts for the resilience of monarchical dictatorships in the Middle East. Without these factors, kingships are just as vulnerable to overthrow as any other autocracy—something that history indicates, given the long list of deposed monarchies in the region over the past half-century.

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