This introductory chapter provides a background of the Arab Spring protests, looking at how the cases of Egypt and Tunisia confirm a central lesson of past transitions: the collapse of an authoritarian regime may trigger a transition, but it does not always lead to successful democratic consolidation. A transition might instead result in reentrenched authoritarianism or any number of revolutionary alternatives. The successful progression from authoritarian breakdown to democratic consolidation is highly contingent on whether elites can compromise and cooperate during the transition, and make the necessary decisions and sacrifices to establish democratic norms and processes. Elite actors' ability to compromise and cooperate in turn depends on the level of polarization among them. This book argues that the political identities of opposition groups are shaped by their experiences of authoritarian repression; these identities in turn determine the levels of political polarization at the moment of transition.
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