In the past few centuries the Arabs, once pre-eminent in a host of skills, from astronomy and algebra to architecture and engineering, have seen their societies stagnate and fester. Though blessed with natural resources, especially the oil that has enriched Arab dynasties and their subservient elites while often leaving the masses in penury, few Arab countries have seen their non-oil economies flourish or their people enjoy the public services or freedoms taken for granted elsewhere.
Arab autocracy: Thank you and goodbye | The Economist
Democracy is not strictly holding elections. Even though it is a step forward, holding elections on their own do not build a democratic society. This can be seen clearly in Kuwait where in the past few years parliament has been more an obstacle to progress than help. What's required as stated in The Economist article:
Elections, though vital in the end, are not an early panacea. What
the Arabs need most, in a hurry, is the rule of law, independent courts,
freeish media, women’s and workers’ rights, a market that is not
confined to the ruler’s friends, and a professional civil service and
education system that are not in hock to the government, whether under a
king or a republic. In other words, they need to nurture civil society
and robust institutions. The first task of a new Saudi king should be to
enact a proper criminal code.
In the Arab lexicon, the concept of justice means more than
democracy. In the end, you cannot have the first without the second. But
the systems that now prevail in the Arab world provide for neither.