Islamist Parties in the Maghreb

Linked with Isabelle Werenfels – Germany.

By Isabelle Werenfels. Taming Islamists by Integrating Them into the Political System: The last few years have witnessed Islamic parties participating in the political process in both Algeria and Morocco. This has resulted in these parties becoming more pragmatic and ready to make compromises.

Algerian President Bouteflika casts his ballot for the 2005 referendum. Algerians had voted on a peace plan the government said will help the country move on from a brutal Islamic insurgency. Critics charged the move will whitewash past crimes.

After the electoral victory of the Islamist Hamas party in Palestine, the Western media has been quick to draw parallels to the 1991 massive electoral success of the Islamist Front Islamique du Salut (FIS) in Algeria. Such comparisons are problematic, not least because the success of Hamas can only be understood in the context of the Israeli occupation. Reference to the Algerian case is nonetheless useful for quite very different reasons.

Algeria can serve as a model case highlighting the fatal developments that can result from the flawed strategy of suppressing an Islamic mass movement. In Algeria, the election victory of the Islamists was followed by the suspension of elections by the army and the banning of the FIS. This resulted in a civil war in which some 150,000 people lost their lives.

Meanwhile, the Algerian leadership has learned the lessons of its past mistakes and, since 1997, has pursued a parallel policy of combating Islamic extremists while selectively including Islamic parties in the political process, as long as they adhere to the rules set down by the regime.

Very different strategies: (Read the rest of this article on, Dialogue with the Islamic World).

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