Tony Blair: Western governments should help ‘liberal and democratic’ elements of Arab Spring

Western governments should do more to help the “liberal and democratic” strands of the revolutions in the Middle East, which are badly organised compared to their Islamist opponents, Tony Blair said on Thursday.

By David Blair
7:43PM GMT 29 Dec 2011

The former prime minister, who now serves as an envoy in the Middle East, said that religious movements who did not offer real democracy could become the victors of the Arab Spring.

“For people in the region, I think there’s a bigger battle going on, which is ‘what is democracy?’. There are competing elements going on in Middle-Eastern politics all the time,” he said.

One strand was the “liberal democratic” element and the second was the “Islamist movement”, notably the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Mr Blair told the BBC that the Brotherhood was “very well organised”, but it was “not clear that the type of democracy they would create would be a genuine democracy”.

He added: “If, in previous times, we were too reluctant to push those dictatorships on a path to democracy, and not outspoken enough, I think now when we look at the next period of time, we’ve got to be very clear where we stand on this, because the trouble really in the region is the more religious and extreme elements are very well organised, and the more liberal and democratic types simply aren’t.”

The Muslim Brotherhood and its religious opponents took about 70 per cent of the vote in the first round of Egypt’s parliamentary election this month. Liberal parties performed poorly.

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