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Islamist governance Hamas style: readings from the Palestinian experiment in Islamic democracy
Swedish National Defence College, Department of Security, Strategy and Leadership (ISSL), Division of Strategy. Göteborgs universitet. Samhällsvetenskapliga fakulteten.
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This study investigates how the Palestinian Islamists in Hamas came to govern following theirsuccess in the 2006 parliamentary elections. The study poses the overarching research question:How can Hamas's governance in the Gaza Strip between 2006 and 2012 be characterised andunderstood? Hamas has attracted particular research interest, partly due to its seeminglycontradictory nature and actions, and partly due to the fact that this was the first case of Islamistsin the Arab world to ascend to power by democratic means. On the one hand, Hamas has led anarmed struggle against Israel which has even included suicide bombings against the Israelicivilian population. On the other hand, Hamas has more recently shown both the will and theability to participate in electoral processes in a peaceful and democratic fashion.

As a result of this, the case of Hamas relates to two scholarly debates in particular. The firstdebate concerns the nature of Islamism - whether Islamist ideals can be considered fullycompatible with democracy. Ultimately, this debate has come to focus on what the democraticpotential of Islamists would mean in practice, should they get the chance to hold power. Thesecond debate concerns the nature of Hamas - how to comprehend the paradoxal conduct of thisactor and in what direction it is heading politically. There is also a strong extra-scientificrelevance to the study, as Hamas remains a powerful force in the Israeli-Palestinian arena. HowHamas is dealt with, both by Israel and the international community and by the Palestiniansthemselves, will have repercussions on when and in what shape the pending Palestinian state willmaterialise.

Based on existing scholarship on this subject, the aim of this study holds theoretical,methodological and empirical ambitions: Theoretically, the study seeks to contribute to the twodebates mentioned above. Methodologically, it seeks to contribute by suggesting a newframework for the analysis of Islamist governance. Empirically, it contributes by adding a newcase study to the existing research on Islamists in power.

The study addresses the research question by focusing on how the new government perceivedand reacted to three key challenges to its exercise of power: relating to the political system and themain opposition party; countering violent radicalisation and local splinter groups; and reestablishingsocietal order and reforming the legal system. The analysis is based on a recentlycollected set of primary data consisting of both observations and interviews. The respondentsinclude ministers, advisors and civil servants in the government, as well as military commanders,internal security personnel and members of the Qassam Brigades. They also include some of theHamas government's fiercest critics, notably Salafi-Jihadis, youth dissidents and members of theFatah party.

The study finds that the Hamas government lacked the necessary organisation, knowledge andexperience to carry out its duties. It also finds that the government perceived itself to be subjectedto an imminent threat of being overthrown. The study shows that while the Hamas governmentwas far from fulfilling the democratic promises it had set out in its reform programme, it did notproceed to change the political system into any sort of Islamic theocracy governed by sharia. Asthe analysis concludes, Hamas's governance could be characterised neither as singularlyauthoritarian and Islamic, nor as merely democratic and secular. Rather, Islamist governanceHamas style has been a blurred combination of all these traits together, firmly guided by a farreachingideological pragmatism and a continuously perceived necessity for further powerconsolidation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Göteborg: School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg , 2015.
Keyword [en]
Hamas, Politiska partier, Politiska förhållanden, Islam och politik, Palestinska självstyret
National Category
Globalization Studies
Research subject
Statsvetenskap med inriktning mot strategi och säkerhetspolitik
URN: urn:nbn:se:fhs:diva-5240ISBN: 9789162892678OAI: diva2:782010

Diss. Göteborg : Göteborgs universitet, 2015

Available from: 2015-01-19 Created: 2015-01-19 Last updated: 2016-08-09Bibliographically approved

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