SFS Professor and Director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding John Esposito wrote about Tunisia post-free elections for the Washington Post's On Faith blog.
Amidst reports of a 70-80 percent voter turnout of young and old, women and men, moderate Islamists and secularists, the election symbolized a restoration of their dignity and freedom and the hope for a better future. At the same time, many in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world and the West watched the first fruits of the Arab Spring unfold. Early reports indicate that among the 80-plus political parties and independents, Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda (Renaissance) Party, already has won 45 to 50 percent of the seats.
Ennahda’s emergence as a major political player has been enhanced by its history as the primary opposition movement and victim of the Ben Ali regime’s police state, by its strong organization, national appeal and platform, as well as the absence of strong alternative political parties. The legacy of Ben Ali’s Tunisia as that of Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt is a history and culture of authoritarianism which precluded the development of a strong multi-party system. The RCD like its Egyptian counterpart the NDP flourished in what was an essentially a one party state.
If the question in the past had been: Is Arab culture or Islam compatible with democracy? Today the key question is: “Are the old political and bureaucratic guard and “liberal” secularist elites as well Islamists ready for the transition to Arab democracies and political pluralism?”
Read the full article at the Washington Post.