There's been some chatter, both on the right and on the left, that terrorist organizations Hamas and Hizbollah being elected in Palestine and Lebanon indicates maybe democracy isn't the way to go in some places. Similar arguments have been raised regarding elections in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where it’s postulated elections might merely serve to replace stable, trustworthy dictatorships with democratically elected religious fundamentalists.
To these democracy-doubters I say: Have faith.
Democratization is a process, as Glenn Reynolds is fond of pointing out. The great saving grace of democracy is accountability for results, or as Lincoln put it, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all the time.” Hamas and Hizbollah have indeed had some election success. Now they have to prove they can govern. When they're asked to actually improve people's lives instead of just killing people and handing out food, and are held accountable for results by voters, we'll see what happens. If they fail, hungry new politicians will take their place (and with popular support leaving the terrorist groups for a democratic alternative, they may be so enervated that they wither and die). If they succeed, it will pull them toward legitimacy and sap the will of the people for condoning violence. Either way, we’ll all come out ahead. Similarly, religious zealots in other Arab countries will have to prove they can govern if elected. As long as the democratic process itself is respected (as it is not in Iran), democracy will likely solve its own problems in time.