Rise of Islamists in Middle East is fraught with challenges
From Libya to the Gulf, the rise of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has buoyed Islamists around the region, but the military’s bid to curb their power has also exposed the fragility of the gains Islamists have made since the Arab Spring.
Banned for decades until Hosni Mubarak’s ouster in the face of popular protest last year, the Brotherhood claimed victory on Monday for its presidential candidate Mohamed Morsy in a runoff against his military rival Ahmed Shafik.
Since emerging from the shadows, the Brotherhood has shown it can draw votes, but remains stuck in a high-stakes game for Egypt’s future against an opponent with the power and the will to change the rules when deemed necessary.
The outcome of the power struggle in strategic heavyweight Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, is likely to have the biggest impact in the Gaza Strip, where a Morsy win will give a political boost to the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.
The Brotherhood’s popularity has seen conservative Gulf Arab governments, worried that the tide of revolt would eventually hit their shores, clamp down on their own Islamists.
While Egyptians go through a tortuous transition process that has seen parliamentary polls cancelled and the power of president cast into doubt, Tunisians breathe a sigh of relief. Their own journey has been far smoother, with no military rulers to turn the tables against the Islamist Ennahda party that won the first election of the Arab Spring in October.
Watching even more closely are the Libyans, who go to the polls in early July for the first national elections since the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-backed rebellion last year.