At the end of 2010 a series of demonstrations started which shook the Arab world from Iraq to Morocco – a phenomenon commonly known as the “Arab Spring”. Beginning as a series of desperate protests against sudden escalations in food and energy prices, by the beginning of 2011, the uprisings had transformed into shows of frustration against and rejection of the autocratic governments in power over much of the Middle East region. The protestors taking part in the Arab Uprisings called for dignity, respect and democracy in place of the repression and intolerance which had for so long characterised the region in which they lived, often with covert support from the Western world. They succeeded in overthrowing several of the Middle East’s long-time autocrats in the hope for a democratic future. But what the rest of the world did not anticipate was that the efforts of these protestors could result in the rise in power of mainstream Islamist groups across the region.

Two years since the start of the Arab Uprisings, we now face a Middle East where politics have been dramatically transformed. Much to the surprise of the rest of the world, democracy has brought about the transition of mainstream Islamist groups from their historic position of opposition to that of official power. Tunisia and Egypt – the first countries to overthrow their autocratic governments in the Arab Uprisings – are now governed by Hizb al-Nahda and the Muslim Brotherhood respectively, both of which despite being Islamist groups have been elected into power democratically. With such an unforeseeable political shift emerging and the fates of many post “Arab Spring” countries yet to be decided, it is important to ask how this transition in Tunisia and Egypt transpired in the first place and whether it is likely to have negative implications on the rest of the world.

Quilliam’s first strategic assessment, “The Middle East’s Changing Political Landscape”, provides an insight into Hizb al-Nahda and the Muslim Brotherhood so that we can begin to understand how and why they were able to gain public support and come into power democratically and more importantly, what this shift in power implies for the Middle East’s relations with the international community.

Noman Benotman, President of Quilliam, says:

“With many other Middle Eastern countries still undergoing their transition to democracy, it is critical that we are able to comprehend the reasons for the increase in popularity of mainstream Islamist groups as legitimate political powers.  This strategic assessment provides such understanding of Hizb al-Nahda and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and serves as a critical analysis of how both these groups may steer their future relations with the international community.”

Download the full strategic assessment here.