Tunisia’s Islamists and the “Turkish Model”

Issue Date January 2017
Volume 28
Issue 1
Page Numbers 102-115
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Authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have historically excluded Islamist parties from the political process, making it difficult to assess assumptions about how they would behave in power, let alone about their potential to stimulate and steward a democratic transition. Until Tunisia’s Ennahda party won elections in 2011, no Islamist party in (or beyond) the MENA region had managed to lead an elected government, with a single exception: Turkey’s Justice and Development party (AKP). While scholars have tended to focus on the regional impact of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the original Arab Islamist movement, in many ways the Ennahda-AKP comparison is tighter, and therefore more illuminating, than the Ennahda-Muslim Brotherhood comparison. Comparing the AKP and Ennahda, therefore, can help scholars identify how different Islamist parties’ impact on democratization may diverge.