Sharia-based governance sounds great to many voters in the Muslim world, but experiencing it is a bitter wakeup call. In the Gaza Strip, Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey, the Islamists were voted into power and recent polls show their own failures are helping the West in the ideological war.
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s political party first came into power in 2002. Its climbing popularity over the past decade was a worrisome trend. Erdogan seemed to have found the formula to successful Islamist governance. That is no longer the case.
A Gallup poll demonstrates that the protests in Turkey are representative of a nationwide change in opinion. The Turkish government had a 59% approval rating in Istanbul in 2011 and 57% approval in the rest of the country. In 2012, before the latest protests, the government’s support fell to 30% in Istanbul and 48% in the rest of Turkey. Erdogan and the Turkish Islamist movement has suffered a major ideological setback.
Hamas was first elected in the Gaza Strip in 2006, taking 44% of the vote. Fatah came in second with 41% and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine took 4%. Since then, Hamas’ popularity has fluctuated and is currently at a low point.
Prior to Israel’s launching of Operation Pillar of Defense in November, 51% said they’d vote for Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, while 40% said they’d choose Hamas’ Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh. Shortly the fighting with Israel ended, the numbers shifted to 48% supporting Haniyeh and 45% supporting Abbas.
The bump has disappeared. A poll taken in March found Hamas’ support has collapsed to just 20%, while 42% support Fatah and Abbas. Fatah’s support is stable, while Hamas has suffered a stunning 28-point drop in support. This has not translated into a gain for Fatah, which means there is an opportunity for a strong third party to emerge.
Hamas’ level of support appears to correlate to Palestinians’ approval of violence. Its popularity spiked in the aftermath of fighting with Israel, but support for violence has since fallen. In December, 51% supported violence against Israel. It is now at 30%, matching the sentiment prior to Operation Pillar of Defense. The fighting did not result in a net gain of non-violent Palestinians. It stayed the same.
The Tunisian Islamist Ennahda Party was elected in October 2011 with 37% of the vote, far ahead of the runner-up that had only 9%. The Islamists’ decisive advantage was that the secular parties split the vote. Today, in what the Al-Maghreb newspaper calls a “political earthquake,” a poll finds that over 70% of Tunisians disapprove of the government. If elections were held today, Ennahda would only win 68 of 199 seats in parliament, a decrease of 21 seats. A bloc of three secular parties named Nidaa Tunis, or Union for Tunisia, would win 90.
In 2011-2012, the Islamists dominated the parliamentary elections in Egypt, taking about 70% of the seats. Later, the Muslim Brotherhood won the presidency 52% of the vote. Since then, the secular opposition has become more organized and protests have rocked the country.
As the Clarion Project reported on June 5, a new Pew poll found that 53% of Egyptians view President Morsi positively and 63% approve of the Muslim Brotherhood. However, a new Zogby poll, described as “the most extensive study of Egyptian public opinion,” had different results.
According to Zogby, over 70% of Egyptians are unsatisfied with Morsi, only 28% view his election as a “positive development” and 29% express confidence in him. Last year, 57% saw his victory as a good thing. Part of this probably reflects a sharp drop in opinion by Salafists who view Morsi as too soft.
The party that has the highest level of confidence among Egyptians is the Salafist Al-Nour Party with 29%. The Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, came in second place with 26%. It is unclear how many Egyptians expressed confidence in both, making it difficult to get an estimation of the level of Islamist support.
The secular April 6th Movement attains the confidence of 25% and the secular National Salvation Front has 22%. Much of this support overlaps. When combined as a single option, about 35% of Egyptians express confidence in the secularists.
Though the attitudes towards Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have worsened, you cannot escape the fact that their secular opponents are a minority. Zogby finds that 40% of Egyptians have no confidence in the government or any political party. The secular opposition has not successfully capitalized on the dissatisfaction of the country.
There are few polls of Muslim countries and they often conflict, but the surveys of these countries where Islamists were elected have a common conclusion: They aren’t meeting expectations.
Ryan Mauro is the ClarionProject.org’s National Security Analyst, a fellow with the Clarion Project and is frequently interviewed on Fox News.
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