Under what conditions will Islamist parties perform well in elections and what happens to the political regime should they gain political power? The canonical hypothesis—“one man, one vote, one time”—argues that Islamist parties are likely to perform well whenever elections become free and that their electoral success is likely to lead to a democratic backslide. Others argue that Islamists are not as popular as this hypothesis suggests or that only moderate Islamist parties are likely to perform well and these parties are unlikely to deliberalize a regime. I propose a modification to these hypotheses, and argue that participation in governments, not seat shares, should be conceptualized as electoral success. Furthermore, because they are often the most likely groups to face repression, the presence of Islamists in governments is indicative of a liberalizing process. Using electoral data from across the Muslim-majority world, I find that Islamists are more likely to hold cabinet-level positions as regimes become more competitive and that the presence of Islamists in government has a positive effect on future levels of democracy, broadly defined. These findings suggest a need to reevaluate more critical perspectives on the effect of Islamist participation in democratizing countries in the Muslim-majority world.
Curtis, J. (2022). Reevaluating Islamist electoral success and participation in government. Digest of Middle East Studies, 31, 170–184. https://doi.org/10.1111/dome.12270
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Digest of Middle East Studies