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University of Iowa News Release


Sept. 8, 2009

UI law professor watches democracy actually work in two Muslim countries

While elections in Iran this summer brought massive street protests and international condemnation, a University of Iowa law professor watched elections in two other Muslim countries pulled off virtually without a hitch.

wingProfessor Adrien Wing (left) was in both Lebanon and Indonesia around the time of presidential and parliamentary elections, on June 7 and July 9 respectively. But while the world was riveted to the Twittering Iranian street protestors, there was little notice paid to the successful elections in those other countries.

"A lot of people wonder if Islamic countries can be democracies, and Lebanon and Indonesia show that it is possible to have fair, open elections in Muslim countries," said Wing, an expert in international law and Muslim law. "There's not very many of them, but it is possible."

And not only were elections fair, she said that in each country, the pro-western, more secular candidate won. In Indonesia, the country with the world's largest Muslim population, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono won re-election, and Lebanese parliamentary elections were won by a coalition led by Saad Hariri.

Also heartening, she said, is that in Lebanon, the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group seems to have accepted the election's results and is working with the winning coalition government.

"In both countries, I talked with many of the locals about the process involved and how the campaign and elections were managed," she said.

Wing said free and fair elections don't mean the countries still don't have many problems -- a terrorist bomb went off at an Indonesian hotel shortly after she left the country, while the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps she visited in Lebanon were as squalid and impoverished as they were last time she was in the country, in 1982.

Nevertheless, she said, they are bright spots and show Islamic countries can also be successful democracies.

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