Responding to the recent failed coup in Turkey, and the successful one in Egypt in 2012, Yaroslav Trofimov reflects on the failure of democracy to take hold in the Muslim Middle East:
This cycle of conflict—between the entrenched “deep state,” dominated by a country’s military and security establishments, and Islamist parties eager to grab as much power as possible whenever elected due to their wholly legitimate fears that they won’t otherwise be allowed to govern—has been a major reason why democracy has failed to take root in the Middle East.
Tainted by their associations with the West or with autocratic regimes long in power, liberal and secular parties have struggled to emerge as a third option in much of the region. And democracy, after all, is a tough proposition when neither of the two major forces now shaping the Middle East’s politics—the old-guard autocrats and the Islamist movements—truly believes in it. . . .
This democracy problem is linked not so much with Islam, an ancient religion, as with political Islam—a modern ideology developed in 20th-century Egypt, in part, to redress the Middle East’s backwardness compared with the West. Its founding fathers in the Muslim Brotherhood met violent deaths . . . but their ideas took root throughout the Middle East after the repeated failures of autocratic regimes that preached the rival ideas of socialism and Arab nationalism. Offshoots of the Brotherhood now represent the dominant political movements from Morocco to Turkey to the Gaza Strip.