Authoritarian regime can be defined as an organization that focuses political power to an authority that is not responsible for governing the people. This authoritarian system can be governed by a group of leaders or by one ruler. The authoritarian leaders mostly come from small groups of people like the aristocratic families and from highly ranked military officials. In this authoritarian rule, the people do not have free choice. The people are not allowed freedoms of religion, press, and speech. Minority rights are not protected and the majority rule is not followed. The leaders are the ones who decide on government decisions and the people must follow these decisions. This paper will entail a general discussion of authoritarian regimes in Syria and Bahrain. The paper will also involve theories that best explain why the regime has remained authoritarian for so many years.

Authoritarian Regime in Syria

Syria was one of the most dangerous ruled countries in the Middle East. The country was ruled by Hafiz al-Asad for almost thirty years, but his demise in 2000 led to his son Bashar becoming the president of Syria. Hafiz came from a minority ‘Alawi sect’ in Syria. On the day Hafiz died, the constitution was amended by the parliament in order to drop the age for legible presidential candidates. The security forces closed all airports and borders with Syria. In the next forty-eight hours, Bashar was promoted as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces (Stacher, 2011).

The Alawite sect, which is about 12 percent of the population in Syria, is comprised of Bashar’s, his family members and most of the government officials of Syria. The Alawite sect also controls all security forces machinery and the army. The authoritative regime in Syria is seen as hereditary. For a long time, the government of Syria has been made up of family members who are very loyal to their leaders. The people of Syria have remained under the rule of the Assads for more than four decades (HINNESBUCH, 2012).

The authoritarian regime in Syria lasted for a very long time. Even after an Arab uprising failed to overthrow the president, the government and the president were not shaken. The president of Syria claimed that his regime had offered nationalist steadfastness and stability of same values (ALLISON, 2013). Any possibilities that the protestors in the uprising had of bringing down the authoritarian regime were doused. The protestors wanted a transition from authoritarianism to democracy. However, this was brought down by the violent repression of Assad’s regime and, by the civil war. Syria has been described to have had the worst humanitarian disaster since the time when Rwanda had its disaster (Hinnebusch, 2014).

The authoritarian regime in Syria has remained in control for a lengthy time, mainly because of the focus of power from a single family belonging to the Alawites. The senior elites guided Bashar’s succession to the presidency. Various institutions supported the senior elites, which made the authoritative regime to be implemented. The theory of authoritarianism in Syria is concentrated on a leaders’ persona and his intermingle with the state institutions. This is why the single person rule is leading in the Middle East (Harris, 2014).

Authoritarian Regime in Bahrain

Bahrain is a country that gets more than half of its income from minerals and oils, which means it is an economically rentier country. Renter states can thwart any efforts of democracy by using their riches to fund institutions like the secret army. The ruling royal family is the al-Khalifa. Their strategic and personal interests push the hardliners who belong to the royal family, to preserve authoritarian power rather than give in to democracy (Husayn, 2015).

Bahrain is supported by other Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia to preserve authoritarian rule and any other discriminatory beliefs. Nevertheless, the Khawalid members of the royal family have unfalteringly defended their own interests by means of authoritarianism. The Khawalid have possessed an aggressive history in the state and they are rivals of power with the crown prince and king of the country. They strongly resist any economic or political development because this will lessen the power and pre-eminence of the royal family (Husayn, 2015).

King Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalif, together with his son, the Crown Prince, Salman bin Hamad allow citizens of Bahrain to have opportunities and liberties. The two are regarded as ‘western educated’ amenders. This though, has put them in conflicts – wishing to increase political powers while their own interests are maintained and, having to deal with the authoritarian hardliners (Al-Kwaja, 2014).

The authoritarian hardliners were victorious in increasing the tension in Bahrain. They ordered security personnel to use violence on the protestors. The violence caused many deaths in the country after the protests in February 2011. The state had not allowed any capital punishment on the protestors. This resulted into demands by the protesters to modify the authoritarian regime. The Crown Prince’s reconciliation program was put to a stop (Fürtig, 2007).

Dialogue efforts in 2011 between the reformers and the opposition parties were disrupted by the hardliners. The king and the crown prince of Bahrain, Hamad, and Salman respectively, started the process of negotiation with the opposing sides. They also negotiated with the security forces so that they could leave. The variety of protests and repression did not bring down the authoritarian regime (Fürtig, 2007).


From the authoritarian regimes in Syria and Bahrain, we have been able to see that monarchies still rule the respective states. They lack authenticity in their ruling and they still seek to be approved by their citizens. This form of seeking approval has led to the creation of parliaments and constitutions in their nation state. Bahrain is among the only six constitutional monarchies in the whole world (Heydemann and Leenders, 2011).


Syria and Bahrain are ruled by authoritative regimes, which make them be criticized for being non-democratic. In most countries of authoritarian regimes, the soldiers and security officers have loyalty to the rulers rather than the national independent government. The security officers and soldiers are chosen based on nepotism. They then become hard to agree with and consequently become tarnished by corruption (Abbas and Akhter, 2014).







Abbas Mirza, J., & Akhter Lashari, B. (2014). Revisiting the Middle East: A Case Study of Bahrain and Syria. Pakistan Horizon, 67(2), 101-110


ALLISON, R. (2013). Russia and Syria: explaining alignment with a regime in crisis. International Affairs, 89(4), 795-823. doi:10.1111/1468-2346.12046

Fürtig, H. (2007). The Arab Authoritarian Regime Between Reform and Persistence. Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing

HARRIS, W. (2015). SYRIA’S FIRESTORM: WHERE FROM? WHERE TO?. Middle Eastern Studies / Ortadogu Etütleri, 6(2), 8-26.

Heydemann, S., & Leenders, R. (2011). Authoritarian Learning and Authoritarian Resilience: Regime Responses to the ‘Arab Awakening’. Globalizations, 8(5), 647-653. doi:10.1080/14747731.2011.621274

HINNEBUSCH, R. (2012). Syria: from ‘authoritarian upgrading’ to revolution?. International Affairs, 88(1), 95-113. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2346.2012.01059.x

HINNEBUSCH, R. (2014). THE TANGENT OF THE SYRIAN UPRISING. Middle Eastern Studies / Ortadogu Etütleri, 6(1), 8-26.

Husayn, N. (2015). MECHANISMS OF AUTHORITARIAN RULE IN BAHRAIN. Arab Studies Quarterly, 37(1), 33-53.

Stacher, J. (2011). Reinterpreting Authoritarian Power: Syria’s Hereditary Succession. Middle East Journal, 65(2), 197-212. doi:10.3751/65.2.11


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