The compatibility and permissibility of elections in Islam are the subject of a long-running debate. The consensus of most modern scholars is that there exists no explicit sanction against elections in the Quran and Sunnah. Although the textual sources specify no particular mechanisms of governance, many point to the Quran's emphasis on shura (consultation) as evidence of the essentially democratic character of Islam. Indeed, the first caliphs or successors to the Prophet Muhammad were chosen from and by the leaders of the Muslim community through a form of electoral process. A number of more recent thinkers affirm the compatibility of Islam and elections. Rashid al-Ghannoushi, in particular, has argued that Islamist parties should act as government or loyal opposition depending on the will of the ballot box. The contemporary experience of elections in Islamic states varies. Pakistan and Iran have recently held elections with near universal suffrage, and in the case of the latter, popular dissent overwhelmingly handed victory to reformist candidates in 1997 and 2000.
See also Democracy