La Croce, la Mezzaluna e il Partito

The  nature  of  the  religion-­democracy  nexus  has  been  broadly  analysed,  revealing  that  not  all  religious traditions appear to be favourable to democracy. In particular, several scholars argue that democracy is not compatible with Islamic societies. This analysis focuses on a specific facet of this controversial issue. Confessional  parties  act  as  political  representatives  of  a  religious  identity  in  the  democratic  arena, and their existence was a characteristic of the development of contemporary democracy in Europe between the 19th and 20th centuries. Self-­‐perception is crucial to a system that aims by definition to represent its citizens, and at that time, the primary source of a common identity was linked to the Catholic religion. The same logic can be applied to Islamic countries today. In order to understand the relevance (if any) of confessional parties in the consolidation of Islamic democracies’,  I  revisited  the  formation  of  catholic  parties  in  Belgium,  Netherlands,  Austria,  Germany and Italy. Using  the  European  experience,  I  developed  a  theoretical  model  for  the  formation  of  confessional parties’ and applied it to two young, Islamic democracies: Indonesia and Tunisia. The result of this comparison revealed several points of similarity: in these rare cases of Islamic democracies  the  confessional  identity  is  involved  in  political  activity  through  the  mediation  of  Islamic parties, whose formation processes were substantially coherent with the expectations of the model based on the European empirical experience.   The  main  divergences  can  be  explained  by  the  decentralisation  of  religious  authority  in  the  Islamic  world.  The  fragmentation  of  Islamic  authority  has  led  to  the  creation  of  a range  of distinct Islamic parties, but it also reduces the cost of the process : while the Church strongly opposed  the  formation  of  autonomous  Catholic  parties,  in  the  absence  of  Islamic  hierarchical  authorities,  the  development  of  Islamic  parties  was  the  natural  consequence  of political liberalisation. The  presence  of  fully-­fledged  and  politically  relevant  confessional  parties  in  the  two  main  instances  of  Islamic  democracies  is  not  a  coincidence.  In  the  same  way  that  Catholic  parties played a crucial role in the consolidation of European democracies, so did theIslamic parties of Indonesia and Tunisia.