2005: Another Deadly Year in Islamic Terrorism
Achieving Electoral Success
Posted: March 7, 2006
Hamas and Hezbollah, two of the deadliest terrorist groups in the Middle East, achieved significant electoral success in 2005, as did the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
· Hamas, which began large-scale participation in the Palestinian political scene in 2005, did extremely well in the series of municipal elections held throughout the year, gaining more than a third of municipal council seats. As a result of the fourth round of Palestinian municipal elections held in December 2005, over one million Palestinians live in municipalities governed by Hamas (while only 700,000 live in municipalities governed by Fatah).
Hamas candidates appealed to Palestinian voters as an alternative to the perceived corruption, inaction and weakness of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority leadership. Candidates promised improved socio-economic conditions for Palestinian families, and greater social services. They also pledged an end to the "Israeli occupation," the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and the return of all Palestinian refugees. In the January 2006 parliamentary elections, Hamas routed Fatah, winning 74 seats in the 132-seat legislature, with Fatah earning 45 seats. Hamas will thus form the next Palestinian Authority government, with Mahmoud Abbas remaining as Palestinian Authority President.
· Hezbollah, founded on the premise of resistance against Israel, scored a strong showing in Lebanese parliamentary voting in 2005. Hezbollah, which has a solid contingency in predominantly Shiite south Lebanon, and its Shiite ally Amal, won 35 seats in the 128-seat Lebanese Parliament (of which 64 are allocated to Muslims). Due to the Lebanese tendency to vote along sectarian lines, Hezbollah has in recent years attempted to reinvent itself as a proponent of Shiite interests. Shiite Muslims comprise roughly 40% of the country and largely view Hezbollah's bloc as the only serious Shiite-dominated party.
· The Muslim Brotherhood also made considerable gains in Egypt as it won 88 seats in the parliament in the 2005 elections, emerging as the largest opposition force in the country. Like Hamas and Hezbollah, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has traditionally appealed to its constituencies through a system of wide-ranging social programs and services, particularly in impoverished areas.
The Muslim Brotherhood was officially banned in the mid-1950s when some of its members were accused of trying to assassinate then Interior Minister Gamal Abdel Nasser. While forced to limit its violent activity, the group has influenced many terrorist leaders - including Osama Bin Laden - and its members have formed several radical and violent organizations. One of these, Egyptian Islamic Jihad - which was later absorbed into Al Qaeda - assassinated Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. Hamas, another spin-off, was formed by Palestinian members trying to increase the group's influence in the Israeli conflict. The organization has praised and encouraged Palestinian and Iraqi suicide bombers and terrorists.
The electoral success of Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood presents difficult challenges for Democratic nations and institutions who seek a democratized and peaceful region.