By Barry Rubin
Is Tunisia, the Arab world’s historically most moderate country in social and intellectual terms, headed for Islamism or some kind of difficult but democratic future? I want to rethink my conclusions on this point. Or is it just the timeline that needs to be extended?
It should be stressed that Tunisia has more prospects for achieving democracy and avoiding radical Islamism than do Egypt or Libya. In Egypt, 60 percent of the vote was obtained by the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists in the first round, with claims of up to 75 percent in the second round. Excluding Christian voters, that means somewhere between two-thirds and 80 percent of Egyptian Muslims support radical Islamist parties. Only the army, which is eager to suppress moderates but would rather make deals than fight the Islamists, stands in the way of radicalization. In Libya, the political situation is far less clear but radicals have the guns while tribal and regional conflicts are likely to promote conflict and extremism.
In Tunisia, though, there is a strong base for moderation. Incidentally, Tunisia is the only country where there is a European-style left, in keeping with Tunisia’s Mediterranean orientation and relative openness to Western influences. Tunisia’s new interim president Moncef Marzouki, promising a moderate republic. But the real defense against an Islamist dictatorship, even an elected one, is that the majority doesn’t want it and those people are unlikely to change their minds.
Continue reading Tunisia: There’s Still Hope for Democracy Because The Majority Doesn’t Want IslamismBarry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). His latest book is Israel: An Introduction, to be published by Yale University Press in January 2012. You can read more of Barry Rubin's posts at Rubin Reports, and now on his new blog, Rubin Reports, on Pajamas Media
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