Islamist Parties and Democracy: Participation Without Power

Issue Date July 2008
Volume 19
Issue 3
Page Numbers 31-36
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The debate on the compatibility of Islamism and democracy has tended to focus on two main scenarios. In the first, Islamist political parties become agents for democratization through their participation in freely held elections. In the second, Islamists use the democratic process to gain control and establish an antidemocratic regime—the feared “one man, one vote, one time” scenario. This article argues that focus on these outcomes may be unwarranted; the first assuming too much about the inevitability of democratic transition, and the second being too broad and abstract to be useful. The case of the PJD in Morocco provides evidence that participation does not always equate to power and underscores the need for clarification of the relationship between the Islamist party and the state.