Sunday, February 28, 2010

The New IRP

Tajikistan's Islamic Renaissance Party makes for an interesting comparison with Islamist political parties in the Arab world:
"The IRP, the only officially registered Islamic party in Central Asia, has in the past depended heavily on support in the country's conservative east -- particularly Rasht Valley, the wartime stronghold of the Islamic opposition fighters. Today, the party boasts an increasing number of followers in other regions, including Kulob and Sughd, traditionally dominated by the pro-presidential party.

"The IRP broadened its support base in a number of ways. First, it sought to shed its image, cultivated since its founding in 1990, as a rural party followed by mullahs and religious conservatives. By replenishing its aging ranks, the party has made itself more appealing to intellectuals, businessmen, and students. Most of the IRP's candidates in the upcoming elections are in their 30s and 40s, and they include lawyers, teachers, entrepreneurs, and at least one professional sportsman...

"Unlike the publicity-shy Nuri, who wore a dark beard and donned a long cloak at official meetings, the clean-shaven Kabiri comes across as media-savvy, outspoken, and dynamic...

"Kabiri has sought support outside the party's traditional base -- making it his goal to appeal to young and educated Tajiks, including women."

One commonality I see is the desire to broaden appeal in exactly the ways mentioned. The political context is different, however, in that the government has made no attempt at co-option. In fact, it seems more interested in the Turkish model, as are its Central Asian neighbors.



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