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Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Democratic Success in a Muslim Nation

Christian Science Monitor:

Like Iraq, Indonesia is also a largely a Muslim nation, also beset by civil strife, Islamic terrorist bombings, and a poor economy. And its longtime dictator was recently ousted. Perhaps then the election held on Monday in this large Southeast Asian archipelago might serve as a lesson for the election scheduled for Iraq in January, one that's in doubt because of ongoing violence. With 155 million eligible voters, Indonesia directly chose its president for the first time on Monday, as well as electing local, regional, and national legislators. The voting was largely peaceful and, despite many complexities, conducted on one day (although official results are two weeks away).
Obviously Iraq and Indonesia are two very different places but still, good news is good news. Update: This article about Turkey is also interesting. I was worried when the Turkish elections propelled a stongly Islamic party into power, but it appears that this has been a benefit, rather than a setback for Democracy in the Middle-East (although Turkey is not an Arab nation)
For decades people have held up Turkey as a model for Muslim politics. But as Graham Fuller points out in an insightful essay in the Washington Quarterly, this was a Western fantasy. Kemal Ataturk's hypersecular republic, allied to the United States and Israel, was never going to move the hearts of Muslims. The AK Party has changed even that. By softening the edges of Turkey's secularism, by emphasizing clean government, by reaching out to the Middle East, it is becoming a more approachable model for Muslims. But to build this image it must be able to do things that reflect the concerns of the Muslim masses, not the elites.


Blogger Gib said...

As far as the cause of advancing democracy, it's actually a good thing that Erdogan is an Islamist. To have an Islamist who respects democratic institutions, refuses to use his office to compel people of other faiths to follow Islamic mores, and (this is still theoretical) is willing to leave office peacefully if voters say so shows that Islamists can, if they want to, be equal participants in a representative democracy. The fact that Erdogan's views put Turkey at cross diplomatic purposes from us more than they used to is just one of those things that happens now and again when people elect their leaders, and as international problems go, not a big deal at all.

9/22/2004 05:54:00 AM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

I agree completely Gib. I was initially afraid that he might not have respect of democracy and attempt to do away with the democratic institutions of that country. He has not, and shows no signs of planning on doing so.

9/22/2004 09:16:00 AM  

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