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The Arab Springs Investigative Report


The Arab Springs

The Arab Springs Investigative Report

By: Theodor Backer


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Title: The Arab Springs Date: 31.01.2012 Organization: ShoutoutUK

Brief: The elections in the Middle East are the consequence of protests and civil disobedience across the Middle East. Tunisia was the first nation that experienced the uprising on the 17th December 2011. A direct trigger for the revolt was Mohamed Bouazizi's self-immolation in protest against injustice, poverty and dictatorship, but factors that led vast numbers of people to the streets are complex and diverse. In the following weeks, the revolt spread across the Middle East, leading to elections in Egypt and Tunisia. Though, violent clashes and protests have been occurring in Syria, Yemen, Libya and other such countries, the governments managed to maintain power, promising reforms and stabilization of the situation. Even if a significant number of analysts suggest that the revolt was caused by poverty or injustice, the initial results of the election do not confirm it. This research will investigate the elections; their development, results and consequences for the future political order.


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Egyptian elections are the result of social protests and riots that began on 28 January 2011. Initially, the protest was non-violent, but soon it evolved into violence, leading to clashes between civilians and security forces. In the second day of protests 3 protesters and a policeman were killed. 1 It is estimated that the revolt to topple the President Hosni Mubarak lasted till the 12th February, taking the lives of at least 846 people and injuring 6,000. 2 Alexiandria and Cairo were the main places where the revolt largely took place, though the riots were reported across the country and were taking place till December 2011. The uproar led to an attack on a Jewish embassy3, Coptic Christians and public institutions 4. Governments and some observers claim that the answer for the revolt was a peaceful one and the security forces used their power to maintain stability and try to create a smooth transition to democratic elections. For instance, Dalia Ziada said that “I think it was more peaceful than we thought and I’m speaking about the people, not about the regime. We were able to keep our nonviolent struggle until the end and I think this is very positive and will be remembered� 5. In fact, the revolt can be described as peaceful rather than violent despite of a significant number of deaths. While the death toll of 846 is estimated for the 3 week long protest, past demonstrations and uprisings have taken the lives of far more people in different parts of the world: 1956 in Hungary, the Soviet Union invasion massacred 2500 Hungarian in just 6 days 6; 1958 in Ceylon between 70-300 civilians were killed in 5 days 7; Soweto uprising in South Africa killed between 200 and 600 people in a day 8; 1949 in the Durban riots 142 people were murdered in 2 days 9; in 1989 in the Venezuelan riots; between 275-3000 deaths in a day 10; one day of clashes at the Tiananmen Square in China (1989) had caused close to 3000 deaths 11

Egyptian Elections Growing public disobedience and series of riots pressurized President Mubarak to resigned and hand his power to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces 12. After further protests, the council amended electoral law in September 2011 and scheduled stages and dates for the elections. The first stage is set to take place between 28 November 2011 and 3 January 2012. A result from this stage decides the delegation of seats in Parliament (People's Assembly) with the total number of 489 seats. 13 The voting is scheduled in three regions and at different dates: on 28 November election are to be held in the governorates of Cairo,


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Fayoum, Port Said, Damietta, Alexandria, Kafr El-Sheikh, Assiut, Luxor and the Red Sea; on 14 December, 2011 governorates of Giza, Beni Suef, Menoufiya, Sharqiya, Ismailiya, Suez, Beheira, Sohag and Aswan; on 3 January, 2012 governorates of Minya, Qalioubiya, Gharbiya , Daqahliya, North Sinai, South Sinai, Marsa Matrouh, Qena and New Valley. The first session will be held on the 16th March, 2012. The second stage is scheduled to take place between 29 January and 22 February 2012 which will reveal electorates for the Upper House (Shura Council) with total of 270 seats. The Upper House has a consultative role and the first session will be held on the 16th March, 2012.

Major political parties:

The Freedom and Justice Party The Freedom and Justice Party is an organization set up by the Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded in 1928 by Hasan Al-Banna. In the next 10 years, the organization had developed extremely fast to become the largest Muslim organization in the world 14. Though, there is no evidence that the Brothers owed its success to the financial support of the German Nazi party, some researches attempt to make such a connection, which would explain its very quick success 15. However, there is significant data to claim that many Muslim Brotherhood members were close followers of Nazism, translating the “Mein Kampf” into Arabic as “my Jihad” and recruiting many Muslims for WWII campaigns 16. One of the most known persons involved in the recruitment was a Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini. Many consider the Brotherhoods ideology to be of great concern. The main slogan of the party in its early years was "God is our purpose, the Prophet our leader, the Qur'an our constitution, Jihad our way and dying for God's cause our supreme objective." 17. AlBanna wrote extensively on jihad, Western civilization and the struggle against unbelievers. He stated that “Preparation for war is the surest way to peace! Allah did not ordain jihad for the Muslims so that it may be used as a tool of oppression or tyranny or so that it may be used by some to further their personal gains. Rather jihad is used to safeguard the mission of spreading Islam” and “All Muslims must make jihad –Jihad is an obligation from Allah on every Muslim and cannot be ignored or evaded” 18. Though officially the Brotherhood renounces the support for terrorism, many members such as Mamoun Darkazanli and Youssef Nada have been accused for having connections to AlQaeda 19. The Brotherhood is also charged with aiding terrorist organizations such as Jamaat al-Islamiyya, al-Qaeda and Hamas 20. Rober Muller expresses this in the following way "The Muslim Brotherhood isn't a danger because they are terrorists, but because they push an extremist ideology that causes others to commit acts of terrorism" 21. Comparably Saudi Arabia’s analysts who face terrorist threat in their own country


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suspect “that a well-financed global Muslim Brotherhood network uses moderateseeming politicians to further its extremist agenda as far away as Malaysia” 22. A spiritual mentor of the Brootherhood, Sheik Qaradawi is the most known Islamic cleric in the Middle East 2324,at the same time, Qaradawi is the most famous in the West for his radical ideology and support for terrorism. He issued many fatwas for suicide attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan and called for the destruction of Israel and subjugation of Western civilization under Islamic law. 25 For instance, in 1995 at the Maya conference he stated: “What remains, then, is to conquer Rome” "The city of Hiraq [once emperor of Constantinople] will be conquered first. This means that Islam will come back to Europe for the third time, after it was expelled from it twice… Conquest through Da'wa [proselytizing] that is what we hope for. We will conquer Europe, we will conquer America! Not through sword but through Da'wa” 26. Officially the party supports democracy and justice. The justice is defined as equality of individuals before the law; social justice; and solidarity among all members of society. However it is important to emphasize that the party misses young generations, Christians and women. The latest generation, according to the party, is unfit for governing 27.

Al-Noun Al-Noun is a Salafist political party. Salafism was originated by Ibn Taymiyyah in the 13th century and he is the most quoted scholar by Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups 28. The school was an answer for Mongol invasion that destroyed the then Islamic Empire in the 13th century. Taymiyyah perceived lack in religiosity as the main cause for the failure. He prescribed Jihad against unbelievers as Muslims who do not follow strictly Islamic ways of life, strong implementation of Islamic laws and harsh interpretation of religious teachings. 29 The most famous fatwa (religious ruling) originating Jihads against Muslims and unbelievers alike was introduced by Taymiyyah: “If with the Kuffar (infidel) there are pious people from the best of mankind and it is not possible to fight these Kuffar except by killing them, then they are to be killed as well” 30 (Azzam, undated) and “Whoever doubts whether he has to fight them [mixed armies of Muslims and infidels] is most ignorant of their religion of Islam. Since fighting them is obligatory, they have to be fought” 31. The teachings of Salfism also forbid homosexuality, innovations, and different interpretations of Islamic scripts, alcoholism and abandoning jihad, which is the violent struggle to make Islamic religion victorious and heard 32. Conversions from Islam are dealt with the death penalty and in Taymiyyah’s words Muslim life starts when "a perfect dissimilarity with the non-Muslims has been achieved” 33 Egyptian democrats and liberals are concerned that the party will attempt to ban alcohol, segregate women, stoning adulteress, introduce compulsory veil wearing and amputate parts of body for crimes. 34


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Al-Ward Al-ward is the oldest liberal party in Egypt. Its leader, Al-Sayed Al-Badawi, possess one of the most famous Egyptian TV channels. Though, the party was banned under Hosni Mubarak, it posses a wide political network and financial support of wealthy members 35. Strong presence in the media is the result of a professional department that publishes daily newspapers and international portals. The party’s program emphasizes democracy, freedom of speech, and independence of the judiciary. Leaders of the organization are engaged in Copts-Muslims dialogue and social equality. Party’s founder Zaghloul stated that “religion is for God and the nation is for all” 36 which indicates the secular character of the organization. In the past, Al-Ward found itself in a conflict with the Muslim Brotherhood because of its secular characteristic. The party supports a market economy, stable prices, and foreign investments. It opposes monopolistic business practices. Al-Badawi is famous for being a successful businessman, like many of the party’s prominent members.

The Egyptian Bloc The Egyptian Bloc is an electoral alliance. Leaders of the coalition believe that the success of Islamist parties can be a major threat to the country. 37 The alliance was formed on the 15th August 2011, after it became clear that the Islamists are predicted to obtain the majority of votes. It is formed by liberal, social democratic and leftist groups. The party presents itself as an alternative to Islamists that might impose discriminatory laws towards ethnic and religious minorities 38. The political program includes promoting education, human rights and a democratic plural system.

RDP Reform and Development Party-Misruna The party was established in 2009 by Mahommed Answar AlSadat. He is the nephew of President Anwar Sadat, who was murdered by a terrorist organization in 1980. The RDP-M defines itself as a civil party calling for comprehensive economic and political reform, promoting sustainable development. The party


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supports economic freedom, free market policies and equal relations with the United States and Israel. It opposes religious political parties and wants to introduce a secular political agenda.

Revolution continues alliance The Revolution continues alliance is a political alliance formed on the 20th November 2011. The organization includes: the Egyptian Current Party, the Revolution’s Youth Coalition, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, the Egyptian Socialist Party, the Egypt Freedom Party, Equality and Development Party and the Egyptian Alliance Party39. The party claim to merge the views of all political parties such as: liberal, socialists and Islamists 40. Some members of the Muslim Brotherhood joined the party after their resignation. They claim to stand for human rights, freedom and equality, aiming to provide unemployment benefits and increases state spending on healthcare, education and public housing. Elections Results: About 50 million Egyptians are entitled to vote, plus more than eight million living abroad. The turnout for the election was very high. In the first phase, on the 28th November was 70%. In the second phase on the 14th December the turnout was 67%, and in the third phase on the 3rd January 62% 41. More than 40 parties and some 6,000 candidates are competing for the 498-seat lower parliament house, or the People's Assembly - which will oversee the constitutional legislation.

Party/ Coalition Freedom and Justice Al-Nour Al-Ward Egyptian Bloc RDP Revolution Continues Others

Total Seats (427) 42 * 193 108 38 30 11 10 37

* The total number of seats is 498. Results for "Al-Sahel", Assiut and Alexandra districts were annulled by Higher Election Commision and are rescheduled for 10-11 January with runoff races for 17-18 January. 71 seats are to be re-voted


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Interpretation: The results are seen as very worrying for many observers and researchers. The concerns referred to the defeat of secular and democratic parties. Winning parties such as the Freedom and Justice Party and Al-Noun are fundamentalist movements. Many of their leaders are accused of supporting terrorism, spreading radical teachings and taking hostile stance towards the West. The problem with radicalization is not new to Egypt. Though the Egyptian government was a totalitarian regime, limiting freedom and imposing strict rules, it has also been struggling with fundamentalism and radicalism from within. Beginning in the 1970’s president Sadat was pressurized by fundamentalists and had to pay lip service towards radical Islamists. He attempted to balance secularism and Islamism. For instance, Sadat allowed the introduction of religious schools and parts of Sharia law; the prohibition of alcohol, penalties for robbery, ban on freethinkers and atheists who were later condoned in a referendum in 1978. 43 However, some believe the most essential hopes of fundamentalists were not met. Death penalty for apostasy from Islam, banning usury and full Sharia law were not adopted. The government also gave women rights for divorcing that was in contradiction to Sharia legislation. This prompted fundamentalist groups to riot and commit violent acts in Cairo. The Universities of Minya and Asyut and christian Copts were attacked. On June 1977 a former minister of Waqfs Dr. el-Dahaby was assassinated 44. After the violence and riots, President Sadat fought back and arrested 1536 extremists, banning the Muslim Brotherhood in 1981 45. A culmination of this conflict was the assassination of President Sadat by a terrorist organization (New Jihad) that also planned to destroy the whole governmental structure and impose an Islamic state. The vice president Hosni Mubarak took the presidency over and revived the past policies that were giving Islamists some concessions, but limited their development 46. He pursued anti-fundamentalist programs in schools and presented inadequacies in Islamist ideology. However a growing ‘petro’ might of Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood’s efforts were pulling in the other way, trying to ‘Islamize’ the Egyptian population. Saudi officials worked with Abd- al-Halim who was a rector at Cairo University, introducing radical ideologies in Mosques and schools 47. Women were also encouraged financially to change their dress to more Saudi friendly attire. In the 1980’s Williams reported that “when asked why sharia dress is increasing among women, many educated Egyptians are apt to shrug their shoulders, look embarrassed, and reply that they can't imagine. Pressed, they often reply that 'it's all because of the Saudis'. . . who give money to writers and shaykhs who will further a fundamentalist version of Islam 48. The following years, President Mubarak struggled with Islamists and survived at least six attempts of assassination which might explain the strong emphasis on security and repression against Egyptian society 49. The success of the Muslim Brotherhood is due to the long term party’s political agenda. After the assassination of President Assad the party was banned and many


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members imprisoned. Nevertheless, this did not prevent the organization from developing and spreading its influence. Members of the Brotherhood followed close political agendas set by Hasan Al-Banna by working on the grass-root level 50. They supported the impoverished, building hospitals and creating many charitable organizations. Al-Banna believed that only religious and united people can challenge unbelievers and imperialist influences. The Muslim Brotherhood has a long history of working with people over the last 70 years, the success of the party is not a surprise then. Ahmed Kanawi an Egyptian school teacher expressed that “They do good social work” and “The other parties, we just don’t see them” “Or, if we do see them, it’s only during the election season” 51 However, provision of social services by the Muslim Brotherhood does not make the organization non-radical. Seri Berman who studied fascist parties in Europe points out that “Fascists were often very effective at providing social services. When the state or political parties fail to provide a sense of legitimacy, purpose or basic services other organizations have often been able to step into the void” 52. The worst scenario for Egypt is that of the Iranian republic (1980): When one Khomeini sized power, he imposed strict religious laws, dress codes and increased hostility towards the outer world. Though taking the nature of the Muslim Brotherhood and its political agenda it will be a gradual development rather than instant change as in the case of Khomeini. A coalition of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist group can lead to subjugation of ethnic minorities and the imposition of strict religious laws on the entire population. It might also result in increasing hostility towards the West, which will be channeled through relations with Israel, Iran, Iraq and Libya.


Tunisia was the country were the demonstrations started. The immediate trigger for the protest was Mohamed Bouazizi's self-inflammation 53. Clashes with security forces resulted in the deaths of at least 219 people according to the UN 54. After a state of emergency was declared on the 27th January 2011, all members of the ruling party were removed and later on, on the 9th of March, the party was disbanded 55. Elections are scheduled on 23 October 2011 to a constitute assembly. 217 seats are to be relocated to different representatives who will be responsible for the drafting of the new constitution.


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Major political parties:

Ennahda Ennahda or Renaissance in English was formed in 1981 under another name; Movement of the Islamic Tendency 56. The organization was inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood and based its program on the ideologies of Sayyid Qutb and Abul A'ala Maudud, who are frequently quoted by terrorist organizations. The party was also accused of terrorism in the 1980s 5758. The leader of the party, Rashid Ghannouchi has denounced radical ideologies and any connection to terrorism. He announced that he would support worker's rights and women's education, and stated Sharia law has "no place in Tunisia” 59. Though, it might indicate that Tunisia will be heading towards democracy and stability, there are suspicions that Ennhda’s leaders may take a low profile 60. Rashid Ghannouchi, though denouncing violence, he was a radical preacher for a long time and was once expelled from Tunisia on the basis of spreading radical ideology 61. Tunisian politicians are well aware of the Algerian scenario of 1991. When an Islamist party won the elections and proclaimed implementation of religious laws, it was overthrown by a military regime. This led to a civil war between Islamists and the government that caused the death of 120 000 artists, women and elderly 62. While a TV station Al Arabiya describes the party as moderate, Ahmed Ibrahim from the liberal party stated that Ennahda appears to be "soft" “but in the mosques, it is completely different, some of them are calling for jihad” 63.

CPR Congress for the republic CPR (Congress for the republic) was established by scientists and human rights campaigners on the 25th July 2001. The party advocates freedom of speech and freedom of association 64. It is also in favour of strict separation between different forms of government. It claims support for human rights’ movements, gay rights, gender equality and civil rights. In 2002 the party was banned. Its leader Marzouki went into exile in Paris and continued its activity from France until 2011.


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Aridha-Chaabia The People’s Petition for Freedom, Justice and Development party was established by Mohamed Hechmi Hamdi in March 2011. Mohamed Hechmi Hamdi is an independent political writer 66. He studied at the University of London, where he earned his PHD from the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies. The program of the organization is to establish a firm democratic system and an equal society by supporting health care, tackling unemployment and providing benefits to those in need 67.

PDP - Progressive Democratic Party The Progressive Democratic Party was established in 1983 under another name: Socialist Progressive Party. Leaders of the party are Ahmed NĂŠjib Chebbi and Maya Jribi. The party position themselves as center left in the political spectrum 68. The party emphasizes the significance of tourism, new markets such as China and India, renewable energy sources, creation of industrial zones and the increase in spending for highways, railways, airports, education, cultural sector and health 69.


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Election Results: The turn out for the elections was over 90% 70. The Ennahda party won the majority of votes with 42% of the total vote. CPR came second and it is most likely that the party will be involved in a governmental coalition with Ennahda. Party/ Coalition Ennahda CPR (congres for the republic) Ettakatol Aridha-Chaabia PDP Others

Total Seats (217)


91 30 21 19 17 35

An interpretation: Comparable to Turkey, Tunisia was a country that introduced Westernization to a large degree. A prominent figure of change was Habib Bourguiba 72. Once Bourguiba sized power in Tunisia in the year 1956, he transformed Tunisia into one of the most secular states in the Middle East: Sharia Law was expunged, religious schools were closed and rituals discouraged. Economic development was the fundamental point in the political agenda under his rule. In the 1970’s Tunisia experienced a rise in fundamentalism that aimed to fight back secular development. The first established organization was a society for the preservation of Quran. The organization began with a cultural program, but became more aggressive when a female member appeared on TV and called women to go back to Islamic heritage. Other members were threatening people who drank alcohol in cafes as it is forbidden in Islamic law 73. The group developed and became more influential when Rashid al-Ghanushi (present leader of the Enahhda) joined the organization. It started publishing newspapers, magazines, spoke in Mosques and organized rallies. In March 1981, a dean of the University of Tunis was taken hostage after a request for a new Mosque was rejected by the government 74. In March 1982, the group organized protests, deploying knives, bottles and chains. The Prime Minister, Hedi Nouira warned that Mosques were a place for spreading radicalism 75. Ghanushi was arrested and his Magazine banned. Some have speculated that even though the Tunisian government was repressive and discriminatory towards different social groups, it maintained stability and marginalized radical and terrorist groups. Many of them found a safe heaven in Europe, seeking asylum on the basis of religious prosecution which may have led to a strong development of terrorist networks in the continent. Melanie Philips renamed her home city from


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London to Londonistan, where radical preachers find new recruits and substantive governmental support 76. A political party, Hizb ut Tahrir that is banned in many countries and figures as a terrorist organization, receives 110 000 pounds every year from the British government 77. On 19th of January 2012, the organization attempted to violently overthrow a democratically elected government in Bangladesh 78. Revival of Islamist governments might mean reemergence of radicalism in the Middle East as well. It is rather unlikely that Islamists will abolish democracy, but it is possible that they will support cultural change and closer relations with other Muslim nations. Revival of a Caliphate is the main goal of Islamist groups as well as terrorist organizations. Development in this direction will lead to greater division between Muslims and non-Muslims and emphasizes on those who belong to caliphates and the ones who do not.


Syria is a multiparty governmental system, but the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party has a guaranteed 162 seats out of 250 in the People’s Council. The Ba’ath party is frequently recognized as a secular political power, but some evidence suggests they could be a Shia Islamic movement that, under the cover of secularism, attempt to maintain there dominant position in majorly Sunni country79. Political parties: • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Arab Socialist Baath Party (governing party) Arab Socialist Movement Arab Socialist Union Communist Party of Syria (Khalid Bakdash faction) Communist Party of Syria (Yusuf Faisal faction) Social Democratic Unionists Socialist Unionists Syrian Social Nationalist Party Democratic Socialist Unionist Party Arabic Democratic Unionist Party National Vow Movement National Democratic Solidarity Party Syrian Democratic Party National Development Party


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Yemen is a dominant party state. Though political parties are allowed, they do not have real political power. The ruling party is the General People's Congress, which is closely associated with the Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh 80. After the riots and protest in 2011, the president was forced to resign and seek refuge in Saudi Arabia. His vice President Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi took over Presidential duties 81. The country is governed by religious laws with separation between the criminal court and a Supreme Court that is based on Sharia laws.

Political parties in Yemen: • • • • • • •

General People's Congress Nasserite Unionist People's Organisation Yemeni Congregation for Reform Yemeni Socialist Party National Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party of Yemen Hizb ut-Tahrir Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party – Yemen Region


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The Libyan political system is currently in a transition. From 1972, political parties were banned. The civil war in 2011 and the overthrowing of Gaddafi’s government are supposed to bring about democratic elections. In the transition time, the National Transitional Council was introduced to govern until true democratic elections can be held 82. Elections are expected to take place in April 2012. Libyan Political parties did not play any significant role during Gaddafi’s rule and a political system is not developed. There are concerns for the future of Libya as the main emerging political power is a wide range of Islamist movements including ultra conservative Salafists. The most organized group Abdul Hakim Belhaj is suspected to have close ties with to Al-Qaeda 83. The president of the National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, has warned that his country is on the edge of chaos 84.

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The Arab Springs  

A summery of the Arab springs, plus all parties that appeared after it

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