x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Poll shows three in five Egyptians say democracy is best

Survey last year finds Muslims in Egypt split evenly on the role they see Islam playing in political life, with 49% saying it played a large role and 48% seeing it as a small force.

WASHINGTON // A majority of Egyptian Muslims believe that democracy is the best form of governance, according to a poll that was taken last year and released on Monday.

The country is almost evenly divided over the role Islam plays in a country's political life, even if almost all respondents say it plays a positive role.

The figures, from a poll taken by the Pew Research Center that surveyed seven Muslim-majority countries in April and May last year, finds that almost three in five Muslim Egyptians consider democracy preferable to any other kind of government, as opposed to just over one in five who believe that non-democratic governance is preferable under some circumstances.

The poll showed that while it had a clear pro-democracy majority, Egypt also had the highest percentage of support for non-democratic governance among the nations polled, which included Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Nigeria, Indonesia, Egypt and Pakistan.

There was a solid level of support for democracy in all the countries polled, highest in Lebanon with four out of five, followed closely by Turkey at three out of four, and Jordan on seven out of 10. The lowest support for democracy was found in Pakistan, with just under half, below Egypt.

The Pew report also shows that Muslims in Egypt are split evenly on how large a role they see Islam playing in the political life of their country: 49 per cent said Islam played a large role in politics, while 48 per cent saw Islam as a small force.

But an unquestionable majority, 85 to 2, saw Islam's role in politics as favourable. Egypt falls in line with most of the other nations polled in this regard, except Turkey and Lebanon.

Asked whether there was a struggle between modernisers and fundamentalists in their country only one in three Egyptians agreed. Of this group, six out of 10 sided with the fundamentalists, while only just over a quarter sided with the modernisers.

Concerns about extremism in Egypt were relatively widespread with one in five reporting they were very concerned, and an additional two in five saying that they were somewhat concerned.

With the world watching events in Egypt, some officials in the West, especially in America and the European Union, have voiced concerns that should Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, be ousted it would result in an increased role, if not outright rule, for Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.

Officials are concerned that this could have significant ramifications for western policy in the region, including for Egypt's peace treaty with Israel.

However, Mark Perry, an independent Washington-based analyst, argued that concerns about the potential rise in influence of the Muslim Brotherhood were exaggerated.

"My sense of this is that the Muslim Brotherhood has showed enormous discipline in carefully calibrating and calculating its role in the current uprising. It has no desire to take over the uprising. It has no desire to lead. It has a desire to be a participant in a much more democratic system."