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Warning half-baked 'Arab awakening' could yet disintegrate

THE "Arab awakening" is still "half-baked" and could disintegrate into religious and ethnic rivalries, a leading British think tank has warned.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies said the past year would be remembered as the year of the Arab awakening, but cautioned: "It will not be remembered, necessarily, as the year in which democracy spread."

John Chipman, the director-general of the institute, said the transitions that have taken place remain "half-baked" and added: "The promise of more democratic outcomes remains laced with the risk that sects, military institutions or other groups might still hijack the process."

Launching the think tank's annual strategic survey, he added: "The fear emerged that Islamist parties would gain greater hold on the political systems that emerged from the rebellions." He said there would now be a struggle between security forces, liberal elements and Islamist parties to create governments in the region and that political competition founded on things that were hard to change -- such as tribe, ethnicity, sect or religion -- "is just demagoguery by other means".

Emile Hokayem, the institute's Middle East specialist, said the Arab Awakening had "eroded the al-Qa'ida call for a global jihadism", but created opportunities for them as security states collapsed.

"Global jihadism has benefited from the fact that these groups couldn't do anything at home so they had to fight elsewhere. Right now the opportunity is closer to home," he added. "At the same time I think Islamist groups, including violent groups, realise that, to be relevant, they have to be involved in the new politics of the Arab world and that means engaging in elections, coalition and parliamentary politics."

Mr Chipman said that in removing the "element of fear" that characterised Arab societies, the Arab awakening had proved that "traditional forms of violence that have plagued the Arab world" were less effective than a popular uprising. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent