Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Tunisia Elections: Will the West Accept the Results?

Rami Khouri on the Tunisian elections as marking a new "birthday" for the Arab world: the birth of real democracy there.  (And, sorry, all you neocons: Iraq does NOT count; nor will any democracy that the US and pals install - that is, impose.)

But can the US and pals handle what's going to be in the offing?

There is already much discussion of the implications of the Islamist party Ennahda winning the most votes, and the possible coalitions it may form with other leading vote-getters, such as the secular leftist parties, the Congress Party for the Republic and Ettakol, or the center-left Progressive Democratic Party.

The emphasis on the American and other Western media on Ennahda’s performance is understandable, in foreign lands where Islamists are feared in large part because they are not known. Ennahda and its coalition partners will now be subjected to the greatest test that any political group can experience: the accountability of incumbency. They must deliver what the Tunisian electorate demands, in terms of economic growth, jobs, social justice, security and that long absent sense that this and other Arab governments exist to serve their people above all else. If the governing coalition delivers what the citizenry expects, it will be voted into power again and again, as we have witnessed in Turkey over the past decade.

The West, led by Israel and the United States, made a terrible mistake in 2006 when many countries refused to deal with Hamas after it won the election in Palestine. The same thing happened in 1992 when the FIS Islamist party won the elections but was barred from taking office due to an army coup, leading to a brutal civil war that saw nearly 200,000 Algerians killed. Now the world gets another chance to react more rationally to an Arab Islamist party that has won a free election and says it wants to strengthen Tunisia’s secular democratic system. The really significant event Sunday in Tunisia was not the victory by Ennahda, but rather the triumph of the combined concepts of pluralistic electoral democracy, republicanism and constitutionalism.

The legitimizing factor that has made all this possible, in the span of just nine months since the overthrow of the dictator, has been the ongoing popular participation of hundreds of thousands of Tunisians, who followed up the initial removal of the former regime by repeatedly taking to the streets, the media, and the political space they opened up to demand that the core aims of the revolution be achieved. This is the new and historic factor that many of us in the region have been pointing out for months, and that is now more evident: These historic transitions to more honorable, credible and accountable governance systems will succeed because an empowered, activist citizenry demands this, and will keep working to ensure that it happens.

Neither promises nor threats will prevent success. The twin core demands of the Arab citizen now being born across the region – social justice and genuine constitutional reforms – drive this ongoing process of historic rebirth. They set down their first roots in Tunisia last Sunday.

Rest assured: Islamists will dominate the new Tunisian democracy.  They will not look kindly on an Israel that has bullied and brutalized so many Muslims, and for so long.  Nor will they rush into the embrace of a US that does not begin to distance itself from an Israeli regime led by hard-core, maximalist Zionists (one of them, Avigdor Lieberman, demonstrably a racist bigot).

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and other Congressmen bought and paid by AIPAC will rant and make threats.  The "experts" at WINEP and Brookings will pen scarifying reports.  Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann will stir the pot.

Obama has professed himself the standard bearer for a new American approach to encouraging democracy and human rights in the Middle East.  (Hell, he even got a Nobel Peace Prize for it!)  Well, the ball's about to be passed to him again.

Will he man up?


1 comment:

Diane Mason said...

Will he man up?

Anyone who saw his excruciating performance at the UNGA knows the answer to that.

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