Friday, October 28, 2011

Out of Tune in Tunisia: What’s Really Going on There and Throughout the Arab World

Note: This is the first and only serious and comprehensive analysis of the Tunisian election and what's going to happen next that I've seen. 
By Barry Rubin
First and foremost, let’s remember that Tunisia is not going to become a radical Islamist state within the next year. The whole revolution in the Islamist revolution is the understanding—learned largely from Turkey—that the movement can operate by stealth, one step at a time, winning elections, taking over institutions, and only emerging fully at the end of that process.
This does not prove they are moderate; it proves that they are smart. And you know what that proves about those gullible enough to be taken in by the trickery....
With this kind of start, the fact that the Ennahda party doesn’t start cutting off heads next week will be used by Western governments, experts, and media to “prove” that it’s moderate.
That party received 90 of 217 seats in the assembly, just over 40 percent. Therefore, they are short of a majority. Remember that this is just a one-year body to write a new Constitution and to appoint an interim president and government until the real elections.
So the party’s strategy is to get as much as possible but not to scare people. Businesses, foreign aid donors, tourists, and others must be kept calm. All the while, the Islamists will work to elect a president and get a parliamentary majority in the future.    
Who will they have to work with in the mean time? The Congress for the Republic (CPR) won 30 seats and the Ettakatol won 21 seats. (I cannot resist the temptation to remark that when the Islamists are through with it, Tunisia will definitely need CPR!) These are leftist parties and Ennahda’s coalition partners.
What does this tell us? On social issues, the Islamists will have to be careful but they can find more common ground with the leftists on economic and foreign policy issues. By building the power of the state and weakening the business sector—which the leftists want—Ennahda lays the basis for its future domination of the society through controlling a strong state.
On foreign policy, the left shares the Islamists desire to take a tougher line toward the West and against Israel. In the shorter run, they will not want to antagonize Europe or the United States. But this lays a foundation for a longer-term turn of public opinion against the West and toward other Islamist states. As we saw in Turkey, a stealth Islamist government can turn around public opinion with surprising speed using patriotism and religious fervor.
read it all:

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