Reading the Arab Elections: Not an Islamist Wave

(New York Post) Amir Taheri - Is a green wave of Islamism soon to cover the whole of North Africa or is talk of the "triumph of Islam" premature? The Islamist parties entered the elections and removed all reference to Islam or religion from their names and platforms. Even Egypt's radical Salafists contested the election as the Nour (Light) Party. The Islamists focused their campaigns on economic development, income redistribution and ending corruption. They steered clear of such old Islamist preoccupations as Israel, anti-Americanism, the vilification of minorities and anti-feminism. They also shut out the theologians. Instead, Arab Islamists have fielded a leadership of academics, engineers and MDs. They've also agreed to give women a share of the parliamentary seats: 50% in Tunisia, 25% in Egypt and 20% in Morocco. Arab Islamists have so far failed to win a straight majority in any election. Nor are they likely to do so anytime soon. Thus, wherever an Arab country has relatively clean elections, up to two-thirds of the electorate votes against Islamist parties. Now we know that parties harping on Islamic themes hardly secure more than a third of the vote in free elections. If it's foolish to overestimate their strength, it's deadly to underestimate their capacity for harm when they seize all levers of power.

2011-11-30 00:00:00

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