Arab Spring navigates Islam, democracy

Moroccans hold signs during a peaceful march to show solidarity with Tunisians and mark the first anniversary of the Arab Spring revolution, in the capital of Rabat February 11, 2012.

CAIRO - The Arab Spring that reshaped the region's political landscape has entered a second year, marked by fragile transitions and the empowerment of Islamists in a region still trying to find its way.

From Tunisia to Cairo, and from Tripoli to Damascus, profound changes have swept the Arab world, leaving it facing myriad political, social, security and religious challenges.

This "tsunami" has "moved tectonic plates and will provoke aftershocks that will lead to pre-democratic states in the best case," said Antoine Basbous, who heads the Paris-based Observatory of Arab Countries.

Ousting dictators such as Tunisia's Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak "proved to be the easy part of change," said Ibrahim Sharqieh of the Brookings Institute in Doha.

Tunisia - where the Arab Spring was born - today appears the most advanced in its transition after having in October elected a constituent assembly, dominated by the Islamist party Al-Nahda.

Egypt's parliamentary elections also propelled Islamists to the centre stage of politics, with the parties of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi movements grabbing almost three-quarters of seats in parliament.

But the Arab world's most populous nation is still ruled by an unpopular military and regularly shaken by deadly unrest. Presidential elections are expected in May or June.

A year after anti-regime protests kicked off in mid-February 2011, Libya is going through heavy turbulence despite the rebels' victory over the forces of Moamer Kadhafi who was killed in October.

Syria which plunged into anti-regime protests in March last year remains steeped in violence.

"Syria is at a critical point," said Nabil Abdel Fattah, a political analyst with the Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies in the Egyptian capital.

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