In this article, I examine the rising significance of a moderate kind of Islamist party emerging in the Middle East in recent years—Muslim democratic parties—and, the factors underlying their electoral success. In this, the manuscript takes a closer look at an important constituency of Islamist parties, the small and medium business owners (smes). Briefly, I argue that smes’ support underlies the success of moderate Muslim democratic parties as opposed to more conservative Islamist parties, and what determines smes’ support for a moderate party is the change in their political preferences. The change in sme preferences, I show, is due to the form that economic liberalization takes, whether economic liberalization is more inclusive (what I call competitive liberalization) or exclusive/selective (what I call crony liberalization). Empirically, I rely on original field interviews I conducted with party officials and business owners in Egypt, Morocco, and Turkey. I also integrate primary sources such as party publications into the analysis.
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