Islamists must cement democracy, novelist says

Fri Jun 29, 2012 2:43pm EDT
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By John Irish and Laila Bassam

PARIS (Reuters) - Islamist governments which were swept to power in the Arab Spring uprisings must ensure that democracy becomes firmly rooted across the region, novelist Amin Maalouf said on Friday.

"The people who have come to power must now be made responsible," the French-Lebanese writer told Reuters. "We have to firstly tell them that they have the responsibility to preserve democracy and human rights and, secondly, to succeed."

"It's always easy to criticize in opposition, but when you're in power you have to deliver."

Maalouf, who left Beirut in 1975 at the onset of Lebanon's civil war but remains one of the region's most influential writers, said the changes should not be viewed narrowly through the prism of political or religious allegiances.

In an interview at his home, close to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, Maalouf said that Islamist governments installed in Egypt and Tunisia after popular uprisings were part of a broader transition to democracy across the Arab world.

Islamist Mohamed Mursi was declared Egypt's first freely elected president on June 25, making the Arab world's most populous nation the latest country in the region to elect a religious-inspired government.

Mursi swore a symbolic oath of office before thousands of supporters on Friday in Cairo's Tahrir Square - the epicenter of last year's revolt against ousted leader Hosni Mubarak - telling Egyptians there was no greater authority than the people.

Many across the region and anxious Western allies have urged the new authorities to work fast to repair their economically stricken nations, often bitterly divided after decades of dictatorial police states which had suppressed dissent.   Continued...