2. The Faces of Arab Democracy

Dec-02-2011 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: Egyptian election results, roughly speaking, are 40% Muslim Brotherhood, 20% Salafi (more traditionalist Muslim), 20% liberal coalition. That’s what happened in Tunisia and Morocco, and what we can expect across the Middle East as more elections get held. We look at a handful of commentators on these developments… Wadah Khanfar, the ex-director general from Al Jazeera, is very interesting; though we’re not sure that the US’ Political Christianity, or India’s Political Hinduism have worked so well. And a lovely graphic vividly demonstrates at how Americans are protected from such commentators via this week’s Time Magazine covers.

* Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Says End To Military Rule Is ‘Top Priority’ The Guardian

The Muslim Brotherhood has fired a warning shot at Egypt’s ruling generals, declaring that a swift end to military rule is the country’s “top priority” as it prepares to take charge of a newly elected parliament.

With provisional election results continuing to emerge, confirming earlier predictions of a strong victory for the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party, the movement’s leaders emphasised that now was the time for “consensus not collision” and agreed to work with parties across the political spectrum to advance the revolution and facilitate a smooth transition to civilian government.

In a sign the Brotherhood will not tolerate parliament being treated as a rubber stamp by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf), which has clung to power despite almost two weeks of anti-junta protests and violent street clashes, senior members of the organisation told the Guardian the generals risked further unrest if they defied the people and failed to return to their barracks next year.

* Democratic Developments in the Arab UpheavalsJuan Cole Informed Comment

The Arab upheavals of 2011 have been very different from one another across countries, but have in common a language of parliamentary democracy as the ultimate ideal (albeit one that sounds more like the old West German Social Democratic Party ideal than like the Neoliberal parliamentary regimes of the US and its close allies). Democracy is not a black and white quality but rather a range of practices that can be highly mature (“consolidated”) or still imperfect and fragile (“unconsolidated”). Whether the aspirations of many Arab young people and intellectuals for greater political freedom will be realized or not, the breadth, depth and fervor of the aspiration is remarkable in itself.

Events are moving quickly in the region, and here are [four] notable developments with implications for democracy in the Middle East:

* What does History Teach Us about the Arab Revolutions?   Stephen M. Walt

Anybody who thought that the events that swept through the Arab world in 2011 were going to produce stable and orderly outcomes quickly was living in a dream world. To say this is not to oppose what has happened, or to believe that the old orders could or should have continued. Rather, it is to recognize that radical reform — even revolution — is a long, difficult, and uncertain process, and that the ride is likely to be a bumpy one for years to come. 

History also warns that outside powers have at best limited influence over the outcomes of a genuine revolutionary process. Even well-intentioned efforts to aid progressive forces can backfire, as can overt efforts to thwart them. Overall, a policy of “benevolent neglect” may be the more prudent course, making it clear that outsiders are prepared to let each country’s citizens choose their own order, provided that important foreign policy redlines are not crossed. But for a country like the United States, which still sees itself as a model for others and tends to think that it has the right and the wisdom to tell them what to do, patience and restraint can be hard to sustain. And patience is what is needed most these days.

* Those Who Support Democracy Must Welcome The Rise Of Political Islam Wadah Khanfar, The Guardian

Ennahda, the Islamic party in Tunisia, won 41% of the seats of the Tunisian constitutional assembly last month, causing consternation in the west. But Ennahda will not be an exception on the Arab scene. Last Friday the Islamic Justice and Development Party took the biggest share of the vote in Morocco and will lead the new coalition government for the first time in history. And tomorrow Egypt’s elections begin, with the Muslim Brotherhood predicted to become the largest party. There may be more to come. Should free and fair elections be held in Yemen, once the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh falls, the Yemeni Congregation for Reform, also Islamic, will win by a significant majority. This pattern will repeat itself whenever the democratic process takes its course.

Reform-based Islamic movements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, work within the political process. They learned a bitter lesson from their armed conflict in Syria against the regime of Hafez al-Assad in 1982, which cost the lives of more than 20,000 people and led to the incarceration or banishment of many thousands more. The Syrian experience convinced mainstream Islamic movements to avoid armed struggle and to observe “strategic patience” instead. 

 * We Must Protect Americans From Arab FacesTime Magazine covers



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