Muslim Democratic Parties in the Middle East: Economy and Politics of Islamist Moderation

Muslim Democratic Parties in the Middle East: Economy and Politics of Islamist Moderation

Muslim Democratic Parties in the Middle East: Economy and Politics of Islamist Moderation

Muslim Democratic Parties in the Middle East: Economy and Politics of Islamist Moderation

Synopsis

A.Kadir Yildirim and other scholars have used the term "Muslim Democrat" to describe moderate Islamist political parties, suggesting a parallel with Christian Democratic parties in Europe. These parties (MDPs) are marked by their adherence to a secular political regime, normative commitment to the rules of a democratic political system, and the democratic political representation of a religious identity. In this book, Yildirim draws on extensive field research in Turkey, Egypt, and Morocco to examine this phenomenon and assess the interaction of economic and political factors in the development of MDPs. Distinguishing between "competitive [economic] liberalization" and "crony liberalization," he argues that MDPs are more likely to emerge and succeed in the context of the former. He summarizes that the broader implication is that the economic liberalization models adopted by governments in the region in the wake of the Arab Spring have significant implications for the future direction of party systems and democratic reform.

Excerpt

In the wake of the Arab Spring, few questions seem as pertinent as the role of Islamist parties in the Middle East, in light of looming possibilities for democracy. Sharing in a desire to Islamize state and society, Islamist parties were once marked by a monolithic antidemocratic stance and a collective desire to oppose existing regimes. As of late, however, they are facing a formidable challenge from a different quarter, with the emergence of a qualitatively different and more moderate Islamic political party. These parties, generally known as Muslim democratic parties (MDPS), have materialized in several countries across the region. Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), Morocco’s Party for Justice and Development (PJD) and Egypt’s Wasat Party (WP) all serve as clear examples of this phenomenon.

Analogous in many ways to Christian democratic parties in Europe (Kalyvas 1996; Altinordu 2010), mdps adhere to a secular political regime, have a normative commitment to the rules of a democratic political system, and desire the democratic political representation of a religious identity (Stacher 2002; Wickham 2004; Nasr 2005; Heper 2009; Wegner and Pellicer 2009; Yavuz 2009; Gümüşçü 2010; Yildirim 2015b). Although Islamist parties have existed in the Middle East for some time, mdps have only emerged recently in a select few countries and are viable competitors for political power in fewer still. As an example, since its inception in 1995, the Egyptian wp has yet to obtain a sizeable following, remaining largely marginal under the shadow of the robust and popular Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan Al-Muslimin). Nevertheless, it should be noted that mdps do not uniformly experience poor performance. in Turkey, the akp has managed to win successive landslide electoral victories since 2002 against both secular and Islamist parties. These contrasting trends raise two interrelated questions: What explains the emergence of mdps recently, and why have these parties been successful in some cases but not in others?

The case of Islamist parties, that is, whether they moderate and how successful they become in this moderation, presents itself as an important issue for both theoretical and empirical reasons. As the dust of the Arab Spring settles in most countries of the region, the role of Islamist parties in this transitional and posttransitional period asserts itself as potentially the most critical issue to tackle en . . .

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