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Friday, January 27, 2006
More Analysis of the Hamas Win
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 5:42 pm

Abu Aardvark (political scientist Mark Lynch) has an interesting post on the Hamas win in the PA, Hamas: tests acoming, in which he notes two reason why these electoral results are important and interesting.

First, they test some of the recent premises of the Bush foreign policy, and provide significant challenges that the administration needs to confront:

It is an article of faith among virtually all Arabs and Muslims that in 1992 the United States and Europe green lighted the Algerian military coup after the Islamist FIS stood on the brink of electoral victory. This has been taken for a decade and a half as the definitive evidence that the American and European commitment to democracy was a hypocritical farce: democracy only if our allies won.

The Bush administration has talked a lot about democracy, about past mistakes in American policy towards democracy in the region, and so forth, but I think it’s fair to say that most Arabs remain deeply suspicious. Recent Arab elections haven’t really tested whether this has changed. Iraq under American military occupation is sui generis. In Egypt there was never any chance that the Muslim Brotherhood would be allowed to actually win, and even if it somehow had Mubarak would have remained in control over a relatively impotent Parliament. Jordan’s Parliamentary elections have been sufficiently gerrymandered (via electoral law) to ensure a strict ceiling on Islamist seats. Sudanese Islamists arrived on the back of a military coup.

How the US reacts to a democratically elected government that it does not like, and that brings with it the terrorist and fundamentalist baggage that Hamas does will say an awful lot about how genuine our support for democracy qua democracy actually is. Further, it tests various hypotheses that under-gird the Bush administration’s foreign policy of spreading democracy as a means of spreading peace and stability.

Indeed, the US has a long history of talking a good game on democracy, but of choosing (especially during the Cold War) reliable non-democratic allies over democratically elected left-leaning regimes (just ask the Guatemalans and Chileans, to name two examples). So, the Hamas victory tests the question of exactly how important fostering democracy really is to US policy.

Second, this situation will provide data of significance to help with some key questions that political scientists have been asking:

Hamas winning and presumably moving to form a government is the first real instance of an Islamist movement on the brink of winning power democratically since 1992. If they take power, we are going to see some major political science propositions put to the test: does power moderate or radicalize Islamist groups? Will they be willing and able to work with non-Islamist parties in a coalition? Will they use their democratic victory to abolish democracy? Will Islamist groups concentrate on the pragmatics of rule or resort to foreign policy grandstanding? Will they use their position of power to pursue terrorism? Will they be willing to set aside doctrine and work pragmatically with Israelis and Americans? Will they use government power to impose unpopular sharia rule over their people? Will they oppress Christian and non-Islamist Muslims? Most academic and policy analysis of these questions has remained counterfactual and hypothetical, since there have been no actual examples of an elected Islamist group in power. That could now change.

All very interesting and important questions. Clearly one case cannot answer any of them definitively, but it is a boon for the study of such issue to have such a case to examine.

Also, the Head Heeb has a lengthy, but interesting and informative, analysis of the elections and their implications.

Filed under: Global Politics, Middle East, Elections | |Send TrackBack

Fruits and Votes » Blog Archive » The magnitude of the Hamas sweep: The electoral system did it linked with [...] to call specific attention to the following: Mark Lynch at Abu Aardvark, Steven Taylor at PoliBlogger, and Jonathan Edelstein at The Head Heeb. Propagation: [...]


  1. […] to call specific attention to the following: Mark Lynch at Abu Aardvark, Steven Taylor at PoliBlogger, and Jonathan Edelstein at The Head Heeb. Propagation: […]

    Pingback by Fruits and Votes » Blog Archive » The magnitude of the Hamas sweep: The electoral system did it — Friday, January 27, 2006 @ 7:11 pm

  2. It’s great that Hamas won, great for Israel and the US. Shoher argued for involving Hamas into the political process on his website for years. The idea is to turn them from efficient soldiers into corrupt and non-delivering politicans. They got into the trap.

    Comment by Danny — Saturday, January 28, 2006 @ 2:01 am

  3. Bush administration is doing great as long as situation in Palestine is concerned. I don’t support the Iraq invasion though

    Comment by Kaeith — Thursday, February 2, 2006 @ 2:57 pm

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