So Far, So Good, In Tunisia

Andrew Sullivan —  Oct 26 2011 @ 4:42pm

Ballots are still being counted, but Jason Brownlee is optimistic:

There is no past Middle East election quite like what Tunisia has produced. Whereas Algeria in 1991 and the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 2006 are natural points of reference, both cases were marred by the dominance of extra-electoral powers. A more instructive example can be found just outside the Arab World, in Turkey 2002, when the AKP won 34% of the national vote. Thanks to Tunisia’s current rules for allocating seats, Ennahda’s slightly stronger performance will translate into a smaller share in the assembly and, if current trends hold, a multi-party government. In short, the Tunisian 2011 National Constituent Assembly elections compare favorably with the region’s largest democracy and evince few parallels with Algeria and the PA. 

I find it inspiring. And on one parochial note: there's no hint here that Islamism means terrorism. It doesn't. It means a religiously dominated democracy, just as the Christianists want in America. Joshua Goldstein likewise reads the Tunisian election as a triumph of moderate Turkish Islamism:

The model [in Tunisia] is not the Palestinian Islamic armed faction Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, and not the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is no relation to the Islamist militancy of the fading al Qaeda. Rather, the model of the day is Turkey’s Justice and Development Party. It emerged from an underground Islamist force under a military government; it attended to daily needs of poor people in slums (garbage, electricity, jobs); it rode to power on the charisma of its leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who became mayor of Istanbul, then prime minister of Turkey. Erdogan has battled back the fiercely secular Turkish military, firmly establishing democratic civilian control after decades of military interference in politics. He is pro-business and pro-Europe. And his brand of Islamist politics is taking root far beyond Turkey’s borders.

Steven Cook looks at Turkey's equally significant role in the region's international politics. Ali Sarihan advocates democracy assistance from international organizations (rather than states) for the new democracies.