This article argues that differences in Arab authoritarian regimes were mainly linked to the relationship between the state, the political party in power and the military. By exploring such differences in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria prior to the 2011 crisis, they are explained in the context of the political changes that ensued in the wake of the crisis. How the army played the dual role of instigating change while impeding it at crucial points in the transitional process is described. The mutual lack of autonomy between the state, the party and the military appears to have been a key factor in impeding change, whereas a clear separation of the functions of these institutions was more likely to enable political change to come about.

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