Islamists Lose Ground in the Middle East
Joshua Muravchik looks at recent developments that show Islamists Losing Ground in the Middle East.
Are George W. Bush’s “democratization” policies bearing fruit?
The results of Kuwait’s elections last month — in which Islamists were rebuffed and four women were elected to parliament — will likely reinvigorate the movement for greater democracy in the region that has stalled since the hopeful “Arab spring” of 2005. It also puts pressure on the Obama administration to end its deafening silence on democracy promotion.
Although ruled by a hereditary monarch, Kuwait is the most democratic of the Arab countries. The press is relatively free, parliament has real power, and politicians are chosen in legitimate elections. However, Kuwait is a part of the Persian Gulf, where the subordination of women is traditionally most severe. Historically, Kuwait’s political process was for males only. But in 2005 parliament yielded to female activists and approved a bill giving women the right to vote and hold office.
In 2006 and 2008, several women ran for parliament, though none won. The women that captured four of the 50 seats last month weren’t aided by quotas; they won on their own merits. Their success will undoubtedly inspire a new wave of women’s activism in nearby countries.
Almost as significant as the women’s gains were the Islamist losses. The archconservative Salafist Movement’s campaign for a boycott of female candidates obviously fell flat, and the number of seats held by Sunni Islamists fell sharply.