“Islam-is-good-for-business”: A new model for Islamist parties?

With the presidential election in Egypt looming in just nine days, and with last week’s Algerian parliamentary election resulting in somewhat freer and fairer voting, Fawaz A. Gerges pen a very thoughtful piece in openDemocracy about the marriage of free-market capitalism and Islamism:

Islamist parties are increasingly becoming “service” parties: an acknowledgment that political legitimacy and the likelihood of re-election rests on the ability to deliver jobs, economic growth, and to demonstrate transparency. This factor introduces a huge degree of pragmatism in their policies. The example of Turkey, especially its economic success, has had a major impact on Arab Islamists, many of whom would like to emulate the Turkish model. The Arab Islamists have, in other words, understood the truth of the slogan, “It is the economy, stupid!” The Turkish model, with the religiously observant provincial bourgeoisie as its kingpin, also acts as a reminder that Islam and capitalism are mutually reinforcing and compatible.

It is notable that the Islamists’ economic agenda does not espouse a distinctive “Islamic” economic model. This is unsurprising, however, as an Islamic economic model does not exist. Islamists suffer from a paucity of original ideas on the economy and have not even developed a blueprint to tackle the structural socioeconomic crisis in Arab societies.

Nevertheless, what distinguishes centrist religious-based groups from their leftist and nationalist counterparts is a friendly sensibility toward business activities including wealth accumulation and free-market economics. Islamism is a bourgeois movement consisting mostly of middle-class professionals, businessmen, shopkeepers, petty merchants and traders.

If there is a slogan that best describes Islamists’ economic attitude, it would be: “Islam-is-good-for-business”.

June Greek elections now almost certain

Here’s your Monday update on the Greek coalition talks.

All three of the top party leaders have been unable to form a government, and President Karolos Papoulias, over the weekend, has been unable to bring the top leaders together to join a unity government.

New elections, likely to be held June 17, are now all but certain:

Greece’s biggest anti-bailout party, SYRIZA, defied overtures to join the government Sunday, deepening the impasse. Leader Alexis Tsipras won’t attend a new meeting called by Papoulias Monday for 7:30 p.m., state-run NET TV reported, without saying how it got the information.

“SYRIZA won’t betray the Greek people,” Tsipras said in statements televised on NET TV after the meeting with Papoulias and the leaders of the New Democracy and PASOK parties. “We are being asked to agree to the destruction of Greek society.”

Papoulias spent the day trying to coax the country’s three biggest parties into a coalition after a week of talks failed to deliver on mandates to form a government. If Papoulias’s efforts fail, new elections will need to be called. Monday’s meeting will be with the leaders of two of the three biggest parties, and the head of the smaller Democratic Left party, NET said.

Greece’s political impasse since the inconclusive May 6 election has raised the possibility another vote will have to be held as early as next month, with polls showing that could boost anti-bailout SYRIZA to the top spot. The standoff has reignited concern the country will renege on pledges to cut spending as required by the terms of its two bailouts negotiated since May 2010, and, ultimately, leave the euro area.

Election results: North-Rhine Westphalia

Results are in from North-Rhine Westphalia, and the vote went as expected: a resounding victory for the current coalition government: the Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (the Social Democratic Party) and Die Grünen (the Green Party) both improved on their current representation in the Landtag, the parliament of Germany’s largest state.

The SPD now holds 99 seats (an increase of 32) and the Greens hold 29 seats (an increase of six), giving NRW premier Hannelore Kraft’s government a commanding majority in the Landtag.

The Christlich Demokratische Union (Christian Democratic Union) finished a poor second with just 67 seats, while the Freie Demokratische Partei (Free Democrats) will not only remain in the Landtag, but will hold 22 seats, an increase of nine.  Finally, the Piratenpartei Deutscheland (Pirate Party) will enter its fourth state parliament with 20 seats.  Die Linke (the Left Party) won 2.5%, below the 5% of support required to win seats under the proportional representation election system in NRW.

On Friday, I had set forth four key questions for the NRW — and we now have the answers: Continue reading Election results: North-Rhine Westphalia

Tadić leads after first presidential vote; DS and Socialists seek to form government

Final election results have been announced in last Sunday’s joint presidential and parliamentary elections in Serbia.

In the parliamentary election, the more nationalist center-right Serbian Progressive Party (Српска напредна странка / SNS) finished first in parliamentary elections, followed closely by the longtime governing center-left Democratic Party (Демократска странка / DS).  The largest surprise, however, was the strength of the third-place winner, the Socialist Party of Serbia (Социјалистичка партија Србије / SPS), the one-time party of Serbian strongman Slobodan Milošević, but now a nationalist, but firmly pro-EU center-left party in Serbia.

In the presidential race, President Boris Tadić (the DS candidate, pictured above) finished first with 25.31%, followed closely by the SNS candidate, Tomislav Nikolić at 25.03%.  Nikolić is running for the third time against Tadić, who has been Serbia’s president since 2004.  The SPS candidate, Ivica Dačić, won 14.23%.

In the meanwhile, the official results of the parliamentary elections saw the SNS win 73 seats on 24.04% of the vote, the DS win 67 seats on 22.11% of the vote and the SPS win 44 seats on 14.53% of the vote, as predicted by early returns.

Three other parties will have significant representation in the National Assembly as well:

  • Former prime minister Vojislav Koštunica’s Democratic Party of Serbia will hold 21 seats on 7.00% of the vote.
  • The “Turnover” / “U-Turn” coalition of various parties, competing for the first time in 2012, will hold 19 seats on 6.52% of the vote.  The coalition features the Liberal Democratic Party, whose leader Čedomir Jovanović served as deputy prime minister briefly in 2003-04.
  • The United Regions of Serbia coalition, centered around the pro-decentralization, center-right G17 Plus party (whose leader Mlađan Dinkić has served as minister of finance and deputy prime minister in past coalition governments from 2004 to 2011), won 16 seats on 5.49% of the vote.

Dačić last week announced he would support a coalition government headed by the DS (and not the SNS), which makes it likely that Dačić could become prime minister.  Although the two parties hold 117 seats in the National Assembly, they will have to include other small parties, most likely the pro-business United Regions of Serbia group, in order to achieve a majority.

With SNS accusations of vote fraud swirling, and with protests of the prior vote taking place over the weekend, Nikolić announced that he would indeed take part in the May 20 runoff, rather than boycotting the vote.

Tadić, however, leads Nikolić by a margin of 58% to 42% in a poll released earlier this week, with relatively stronger support for Tadić by younger voters.

The candidates are scheduled to debate on Wednesday in advance of the Sunday’s vote.