Springtime for Arabs and Tunisia, Winter for Pollsters and Finance (Consultants)

I work with a lot of virtuous people who are committed to the common good, but sometimes it’s tough to muster pride in being a political professional:

The victory for Tunisia’s Islamist party in last Sunday’s elections could signal that religious groups will dominate the region’s politics in the near future.

That could limit the opportunities for American political consultants in North Africa. “I think the opportunities for Western consultants in environments dominated by Islamist parties is minimal,” says David Denehy, a consultant with experience in Iraq.

One media consultant who was engaged in Tunisia said the results indicate the country is now “lost.” And it could be just the first regional domino, with Egypt and Libya the next to fall.

[…]

Ennahda’s win is unlikely to dry up work for political consultants, but an electoral sweep for the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party in Egypt may curtail opportunities.The Muslim Brotherhood’s supporters, unlike Ennahda’s, won’t tolerate the party reaching out for American political expertise.

Moreover in Libya, there are early signs the country’s politics could be dominated by religious groups. Libya’s transitional leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil said this week that Sharia law will be the “main source” for legislation.

It’s embarrassing that Americans who work in politics are looking at Arab democratization not in terms of what’s good for the Arabs, or even what’s in the US national interest, but only as a potential business opportunity. But it’s also humorous that consultants would think that religion invading the political process would prevent them from picking up clients. If that were true, Republican consultants would all be bankrupt.

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