In Egypt, Mohamed Morsy, the country's first civilian president, is locked in a power struggle with his generals. To the west, votes are still being counted, but it looks as if rebel political leader Mahmoud Jibril will be responsible for unifying post-war Libya and bringing rogue militias into the fold. Both men also face harsh economic realities, compounded by months of conflict and unrest. These are the dual challenges wrought by the Arab Spring: Institutionalizing nascent democracy while simultaneously kick-starting much-needed economic growth.
In a perfect world, democracy and economic growth would be mutually reinforcing. But in many corners of the globe -- from Latin America, to Africa, to the former Soviet bloc -- the reality has proven to be more complex. Whether the Arab world can have both democracy and prosperity is a question that will play out for months and years. But for now, all we can do is measure the attitudes and aspirations of Arab citizens themselves.
Solid majorities in Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Tunisia say that democracy is the best form of government, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center. At the same time, at least seven-in-ten respondents from these countries say that their national economy is performing poorly.
Perhaps not surprisingly, given the diversity of the region, people from different Arab countries weigh the tradeoff between these differently. Most Jordanians and Tunisians believe that robust economic growth is more important than consolidating democracy. The Lebanese, in contrast, place more importance on democracy, while Egyptians are evenly divided.
What do Arab publics make of the Arab Spring's impact on prospects for democracy? Across the board, solid majorities believe the 2011 popular uprisings will lead to more democracy in the Middle East, including nearly three-quarters of those surveyed in Egypt and seven-in-ten in Tunisia. Roughly two-thirds in Jordan and Lebanon agree.
But as the recent Tunisian and Egyptian elections demonstrate, voters have their own views about what democracy should look like.
Most in these four Arab nations want a major role for Islam in public life, and most want Islam to have at least some influence on their nation's laws. Majorities in Jordan and Egypt believe laws should strictly follow the teachings of the Quran, while in Tunisia, a former French colony, views on this question look like more secular Muslim nations such as Turkey and Indonesia. Most Tunisians want their laws to be influenced by the values and principles of Islam, but not to strictly follow the Quran.
In three of four nations, solid majorities say Islam is already playing a large role in the country's political life. In newly democratic Tunisia, where the Islamist party Ennahda won the largest share of votes in the recent parliamentary election, fully 84 percent think Islam already has a major role. Similarly, in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood has won both parliamentary and presidential elections, 66 percent hold this view, up from 47 percent just two years ago. The clear exception is Jordan, where the Western-educated and largely secular King Abdullah II continues to hold the reins. Only 31 percent of Jordanians believe Islam currently plays a large part in their nation's political life.