notes how the image of Islamist parties is being tarnished by their actual governance
It is not just in Egypt that the Brothers are taking a battering
nowadays, and not just in the form of ridicule. From the Atlantic Ocean
to the Gulf, the many mainstream Islamist groups allied to, inspired by
or sympathetic to the Brotherhood, whose main branch was founded in
Egypt in 1928, face a range of tricky challenges. In countries that have
so far been spared the upheavals of the Arab spring these can take
familiar shape: the United Arab Emirates, still an absolute monarchy,
this week began trying 94 alleged Brothers on charges of conspiracy
against the state. Yet across most of the region the trials are of a new
kind, brought on not by persecution as in decades past, but by the
responsibilities and burdens of being in charge...
Yet the Ikhwan’s more recent moves out of exile,
out of prison and out of cramped flats bugged by the old regimes’
secret police have not proved easy. Internal divisions have re-emerged.
Already, amid the slight opening of Egyptian politics that predated the
revolution of January 2011, a purge by conservative Brothers had ousted
more modern-minded elements from the leadership. The slowness of Ikhwan elders
to embrace the revolution and their ensuing preference for back-room
dealings with the still-powerful institutions of Egypt’s “deep state”,
in particular the army and the courts, have alienated many of the
Brotherhood’s younger members. Former Brothers now rank among the Ikhwan’s
most bitter and effective critics. Some, staking out a middle ground
and readier to ally with secularists, pose an increasingly potent threat
to the Brothers’ electoral base.
Similar strains have weakened Tunisia’s Nahda. Following the murder of a
leftist politician last month, the then prime minister, Hamadi Jebali,
who is also Nahda’s secretary-general, offered to resign and form a
broader-based government of technocrats, apparently without informing
party colleagues. Mr Jebali, replaced in a new government following
ructions within Nahda, represents a liberal wing that challenges those
who want above all to Islamise Tunisian society. The party’s leader,
Rachid Ghannouchi, finds himself trying to bridge these currents, says
Fabio Merone, a researcher on Islamist movements. “But by trying to
please everyone he is pleasing no one.” This week Nahda surrendered the
foreign and defence ministries to non-party people.
This is actually about an old line I remember from my early days of graduate school. It is easier to be in opposition than to govern, in the Arab world Islamists were the most visible opposition. Once you put them in charge, they both become responsible for all the country's problems and have to make often unpopular decisions and compromises, as Hamas has found out in the Gaza Strip even independent of their repression there. This is just one of the reasons that support for Islamists in the general Arab public has actually declined sharply since 2010, albeit from often commanding heights. It also highlights the ways in which, say, support for political Islam was in part a creation of the way Arab countries had been governed, in that it allowed Islamists to represent a perceived pious opposition to a corrupt and often inefficient system.
Labels: Egypt, Palestine, Tunisia