Middle East Notes and Comment: Should the Party Be Over?
December 15, 2005
There is a certain logic to the idea that political change in the Middle East should go through political parties. Parties have leaders, activists, and agendas. They are wonderful at mobilizing people for a common purpose. They have been successful pushing democracy around the world, from Eastern Europe to South Africa to East Asia. They may not be the best way forward in the Middle East, however.
The conclusion of Egypt’s parliamentary elections last week helped prove that point. The ruling National Democratic Party did remarkably well, winning some 70 percent of the seats. The next runner up was not a party at all, but rather the Muslim Brotherhood. Egyptian law prohibits religiously oriented parties, so Brotherhood candidates (who in years past competed as members of the Labor Party) ran as independents, under the common slogan of “Islam is the Solution.” Its candidates contested only one third of the seats in the Egyptian Parliament, and in early rounds they took two-thirds of them.