After the Year of the Protester, came the Year of the Politico. The next phase of revolutions in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia saw previously marginalized Islamist political forces make dramatic gains. Once banned or fringe parties now hold the levers of power: In Tunisia, Ennadha, a previously outlawed moderate Islamist movement, now commands a majority in the legislature and may set about overhauling the country’s relatively laissez-faire, secularist societal mores. In Libya, the Sept. 11 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi brought into stark relief both the security conundrum and growing radicalism that has followed the toppling of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
But the key indicator may be the fate of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the organization that gave rise to many of the Arab world’s Islamist movements, and which is now effectively the ruling party of the most populous country in the Arab world. The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party emerged dominant in the parliamentary elections completed in the spring, and then in the summer saw its candidate, Mohamed Morsi, elected president. Following a sudden announcement of personnel changes at the top of the military, Morsi appears to have outmaneuvered the generals who had earlier taken power for themselves after ousting President Hosni Mubarak. But he may have overreached in November by claiming sweeping executive authority to limit judicial oversight, prompted by the efforts of judges appointed in the Mubarak era to block the drafting of a new constitution. Morsi’s power grab triggered a new round of noisy protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, directed not only at his autocratic instincts, but also at the Muslim Brotherhood’s illiberal religiosity, which critics worry will shape the new constitution. The outcome remains in the balance, but many fear that as Egypt goes, so to the wider Arab rebellion of which it is the center.