Whither the Arab Spring? Or, Egypt Makes Burma Look Good by Comparison
Two international headlines from this weekend worth juxtaposing. First, from the Associated Press in Burma:
Supporters of Burma's opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi erupted in euphoric cheers Sunday after her party said she won a parliamentary seat in a landmark election, setting the stage for her to take public office for the first time.
The victory, if confirmed, would mark a major milestone in the Southeast Asian nation, where the military has ruled almost exclusively for a half-century and where a new reform-minded government is seeking legitimacy and a lifting of Western sanctions.
It would also mark the biggest prize of Suu Kyi's political career, and a spectacular reversal of fortune for the 66-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate who the former junta had kept imprisoned in her lakeside home for the better part of two decades.
Second, from the New York Times in Cairo:
Hazem Salah Abu Ismail is an old-school Islamist.
He wants to move toward abolishing Egypt's peace treaty with Israel and cites Iran as a successful model of independence from Washington. He worries about the mixing of the genders in the workplace and women’s work outside the home. And he promises to bring extraordinary prosperity to Egypt, if it turns its back on trade with the West.
He has also surged to become a front-runner in the race to become Egypt’s next president, reconfiguring political battle lines here. His success may help explain why the United States offered signs of tacit approval over the weekend when the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest Islamic group, broke its pledge not to field its own candidate.
Even those of us who have been skeptics of the Arab Spring from the start would have been gobsmacked if you had told us during its earliest days that a year later (A) a Muslim Brotherhood candidate for the Egyptian presidency would have been preferred by the U.S. as the less radical choice and (B) Burma would be on a better trajectory for democratic reform than Cairo. One wonders if we should adjust expectations for a year from now accordingly.