Overall, the Middle East and North Africa region continues to be dominated by ruling families and self-appointed leaders. For the most part, even in countries where elections are held, incumbents tend to be minimally challenged or completely unopposed. Key exceptions include Lebanon. Many of the aging rulers, particularly in North Africa, are now trying to pass on this authority to their sons, but succession developments could add to uncertainty in the near term, particularly in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Despite the centralized authority, many countries have granted a (albeit limited) role for parliaments.
In January 2011, a series of protests spread across the MENA region, with populations demanding lower prices, more jobs and an increase in their standard of living from their autocratic rulers. The protests began in Tunisia, where they culminated in the outster of the long-term president, but have also taken place in Egypt, Jordan, Algeria and Yemen. The oil-importing countries have been most vulnerable to such concerns as they lack the resources of their richer neighbors.