Commentary

Building Momentum for Reform: The Islamist-Secular Alliance in Yemen

in Program

By Mona Yacoubian

Islamist actors can play a significant role in the peaceful
transition from authoritarian to democratic governance. Islamist parties
typically boast leaders who are young and dynamic. Their party organizations
brim with energy and ideas, attracting those who seek change. Unlike their
secular counterparts, Islamists possess well-developed and easily mobilized
grass-roots networks. Their strong ties to the community are deeply enmeshed in
a wide-ranging network of mosques and charitable organizations.

At the same time, Islamist actors have often been at the
forefront of opposition movements demanding greater political freedoms in the
Arab world. A wide variety of Islamist parties, from the party of Justice and
Development in Morocco to the Egyptian Muslim brotherhood, have issued
statements and platforms demanding comprehensive democratic reform, including
free elections, the peaceful transfer of power, an independent judiciary, and
civil liberties. Throughout the region, Islamist political parties are playing
a larger role in propelling political reforms forward. As with their secular
opposition party counterparts, however, their efforts have met with very
limited success. Authoritarian governments in the region are increasingly
resorting to repression and cracking down on the region’s nascent reform
movement. 

 

Read the full report here (link to complete publication).

________________________________

This report first appeared in The Challenge of Islamists for EU and US Policies: Conflict, Stability and Reform, SWP and USIP, November 2007.

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