Wednesday’s sharp uptick in violence in Syria led the news, but overshadowed a far more peaceful milestone. The announcement of Libya’s election results on Tuesday marked the end of a tumultuous period in which three revolutionary Arab states (Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya) all held their first sets of genuine electoral contests — among the freest and fairest ever carried out in the Arab world. With many dozens of parties and many hundreds of candidates running, the elections were also the most competitive. And in most — but not all — of these polls, Islamist parties and movements came out ahead. This seems a worthy moment, then, to take stock of what the outcomes in these three North African countries can — and can’t — tell us about the future of democratic politics in the Arab world.
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