Tunisia has legalized the Islamist al-Nahda party, while a group with close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood is trying to run in the upcoming Egyptian election. While no party is running under the MB name, parties with religious ideologies are trying to make gains in the Middle East's newest democracies.
The al-Nahda party of Tunisia, which was denied legal registration in 1987 and forced to go underground in the 1990s, will be allowed to participate in upcoming Tunisian elections. Rachid al-Ghannouchi, the group's leader who recently returned from 20 years in exile in London, has stated that he will not run for the presidency, but that the party will take part in the parliamentary elections.
Al-Nahda is perceived by some analysts as the flag bearer of a "new model for progressive Islamism," but some secularists and religious minorities are concerned with political Islam in Tunisia. Questions also remain about the radicalism of the Ghannoushi-inspired, Turkish party AKP, his anti-Semitism, and his signing of a declaration in support of Hamas and terrorism.
Meanwhile, in Egypt, Abu al-Ila Madi, the leader of the renewed al-Wasat al-Gadid Party, claims that his party has no intention of pushing religious values on that nation. "We affirmed on many occasions that we are against religious parties that are based on a religious basis, and adopt the theocratic thinking of clergymen, which we totally reject," according to a translation of a 2006 article by "Al-Misryun." Likewise, a 2006 Congressional Research Service report said that the party "received attention among Western observers for its commitment to pluralism, religious toleration, and acceptance of secular political principles."
Questions remain about moderation in the al-Wasat al-Gadid Party. The group broke with the MB in January 1996, although Madi held several leadership roles in the MB prior to his departure. It is unclear if the party is divided in a way that is similar to branches of the MB, where members of the Muslim Brotherhood Movement are radicalized through an intensive educational program but the party branches allow for the participation of sympathetic politicians, women, and non-Muslims.