After the Arab Spring: Are Secular Parties the Answer?

Issue Date October 2015
Volume 26
Issue 4
Page Numbers 125-139
file Print
arrow-down-thin Download from Project MUSE
external View Citation

After the “Arab Spring” and the initial democratic reforms in Turkey under the Justice and Development Party (AKP), why has democratic progress remained so elusive in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)? In recent years, that question has preoccupied numerous scholars, commentators, and policy makers. Behind most of their analyses, we believe, lurks an assumption that secular parties are intrinsically better stewards of constitutional liberalism than their Islamist counterparts. Yet have non-Islamist parties really been superior agents of democratic change? We test this by surveying secular parties in three countries: Egypt, Tunisia, and Turkey. In order to assess each party’s liberal credentials, we analyze each along four key dimensions: 1) history of exclusivist and statist positions; 2) ties to the military; 3) past political behavior; and 4) internal party democracy.