Why Islamists will just keep winning

Rami G Khouri writes: A persistent question we have heard during each Arab uprising across the Arab world in the past year has been, “What happens after the regime falls? Who takes over power?” This is usually asked with a tone of foreboding, with concern that bad or unknown political forces will assume power. Most worry revolves around the prospect of the Muslim Brotherhood or other Islamists assuming power, on the grounds that they are the best organized political groups.

Sometimes this leads frightened people to conclude that it is better to stick with the governments we have – despite their flaws – rather than risk the unknown or an Islamist takeover of power. We hear the same thing said about Syria these days, as many ponder the possible or, I sense, likely, fall of the Assad family dynasty of 42 years.

It is time for analysts to get over their worries and adjust to the overwhelming lesson from the first year of the ongoing Arab uprisings: The transition from autocracy to democracy, and from authoritarianism to pluralism, in the Arab world must necessarily pass through a phase of Islamist rule or of coalition governments in which Islamists play a role.

This is one conclusion we should draw from the track record of the past year, during which time Islamists have won pluralities or majorities in every election held (Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Kuwait, most significantly, with others to follow in Libya, Yemen and elsewhere). The victory of Islamists in Kuwait’s parliamentary elections last month was the most telling performance, providing useful insights into why we need to get used to the fact that Islamists will hold executive power in many countries for some years ahead.

The Feb. 2 Kuwaiti elections followed the emir’s dissolution of Parliament after repeated public protests demanding a parliamentary investigation of the prime minister for alleged corruption and bribery. In line with the rest of the Arab world, Kuwaitis gave the opposition – dominated by Islamists – 34 of 50 seats in parliament. Wealthy and stable Kuwait is a world away from the poverty and social stresses of Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt, yet here the Islamists also emerged as the leading voice of the citizenry. [Continue reading…]

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6 thoughts on “Why Islamists will just keep winning

  1. blowback

    Perhaps there is another reason that Islamists keep winning – the corrupt theocratic despots in the GCC pay billions in bribes to ensure that the Islamists/Salafists they are supporting win.

  2. Osama

    In the last Lebanese election, they were selling votes for as much 1300 dollars…

    In Yemen, my sources tell me its only 50 dollars per vote… I hope no one had to pay during the last election – their was only one candidate – not sure how it will get the “free and fair” rubber stamp….

  3. DE Teodoru

    There no law of social science that edict: Islam= war to conquer infidels.

    The nationalists– THANKS TO OUR INTERVENTIONS– have had their turn at power and when they failed many Muslims thought shameful failure might be God’s punishment for corrupt state immorality. They have a point. But now, with power coming to them, they might prove to be socially more responsible than seculars. We can hope but we can’t dictate. Already incompetent generals and NSC/CIA operatives and analysis have bankrupt America and our patriotic compatriots who enlisted. It’s time to try NONINTERFERENCE rather than serving as Israel’s mad dog on a chain for Adelson’s campaign contributions. Israel can lead Arabs out of darkness but not by killing them an taking their land but by example.

  4. pabelmont

    I hope the USA can avoid a theocratic (-lite) government from one of the Republican-Stalwarts-now-running-cum-AIPAC. Not that such would erase the solid control of the oligarchs (BIG-BANKs, BIG-OIL, BIG-WAR, BIG-ZION, etc.) But on social issues it would be (from my perspective a disaster).

    What government an Islamic-majority country elects is no business of mine — or not for a while at least — in the USA with its fearsome Islamophobia and Judeaophilia.

  5. delia ruhe

    Both DE and pa are quite correct. We’ve always known that the transformation of the Middle East would take time, and the longer Israel and the US keep interfering the longer it will take.

    The “manifest destiny” and “light unto the nations” ideologies are both ideologies of interference. The fact that neither the US nor Israel can seem to win a war these days will sooner or later force these two over-militarized nations to rethink their philosophies.

  6. Tom Hall

    It is quite true that the conservative religious parties enjoy public trust in many societies. This in itself does not make them revolutionaries; neither does the substitution of a new framework of rule. Already there are signs that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is turning to the military for support and will seek accommodation with US power in the region.

    People who are right by virtue of their virtue- who govern not according to social insight and analysis but as a consequence of supernatural authority- are unlikely to share power willingly or otherwise with secular forces or religious minorities. While it would be wrong to infer future developments from outcomes in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the examples are there. Islamists are just as susceptible to autocracy, corruption and brutality as the rulers they supplant. And they may not regard their new-found power as merely “transitional”.

    The role of independent trade unions and civic organizations- broadly speaking, the Left- will provide a clue to the emerging character of the post-revolutionary state. If they are disregarded or gradually proscribed by governments, expect to see a constriction of political rights and a concentration of power in the hands of a remodeled elite.

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