News / Middle East

Three Years Later, Democracy Remains Elusive in Tunisia

A Tunisian boy waves a flag as he runs during a rally to mark the third anniversary of the Tunisian revolution, in Tunis, Tunisia, Dec. 17, 2013.
A Tunisian boy waves a flag as he runs during a rally to mark the third anniversary of the Tunisian revolution, in Tunis, Tunisia, Dec. 17, 2013.
Lisa Bryant
The North African country of Tunisia marks today, Tuesday, the third anniversary of the start of a revolution that triggered the wider Arab Spring uprisings. Still, the democratic transition remains incomplete, and many Tunisians are dissatisfied with the results: insecurity, a struggling economy and political gridlock. There also are positive signs, though, as wrangling parties agree on a new prime minister.

Not so long ago, Sidi Bouzid was just another nondescript Tunisian town surrounded by olive and orange groves. That changed on December 17, 2010, when vegetable vender Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire there as an act of protest. Today, Sidi Bouzid symbolizes the largely frustrated hopes of many Tunisians - and political activists across much of the Arab world.

Tunisia's January 2011 revolution ousted the country's longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who is now in exile. But it has failed to produce a stable democracy.

Bickering political parties still haven't completed a new constitution, much less organized new elections. This year, two secular politicians have been assassinated, rappers have been jailed, and the morbid economy has prompted an exodus to Europe.

Hopeful accomplishments

The snapshot of Tunisia, however, is not uniformly bleak. Human Rights Watch's Tunis director Amna Guellali said the country today is full of contrasts and paradoxes.

"On the one hand you have some achievements since the revolution. Tunisians have gained much more public freedom, in terms of freedom of speech, freedom to demonstrate, freedom to express their opinions," said Guellali. "They have also initiated a democratic process, which is hailed internationally as inclusive, bringing together parties from across the political spectrum."

On Saturday - and after months of statement and popular protests - Tunisia's Islamist-dominated government and opposition parties agreed on Industry Minister Mehdi Jomaa to become the country's new prime minister. Jomaa has little political experience, but some see that as a plus, calling him a hope for the country.

Still, if he takes office, said International Crisis Group's senior Tunisia analyst Michael Bechir Ayari, Jomaa and his caretaker government will face daunting challenges.

"They have to [complete] the constitution, they have to prepare the elections, they have to depolarize the security question, they have to build dialogue and they have to appoint the new institution that will supervise the elections," he said.

Political violence

Insecurity is one of the biggest challenge, Ayari said. The government blames radical Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia for the deaths of two opposition politicians. Other attacks by radical Islamists and ordinary criminals have led to political finger pointing - and would have been unheard of during Tunisia's old dictatorship.

"If there is no security crisis, the process will be able to advance... if there is another security crisis, there are going to be more political tensions," he said.

Free expression also is under fire. Artists have been hounded and rappers have been jailed - along with members of the militant international feminist group, Femen.

In addition, HRW's Guellali said the old judicial system largely remains in place.

"This is a lethal combination for human rights in Tunisia and it has led to a spate of prosecutions and even sentencing of people for very lengthy jail sentences," he said.

Of course, Tunisians are impatient for rapid change. After all, they overthrew their government just a month after Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire. Not surprisingly, they are disappointed with today's results.

Analyst Ayari said Tunisia's fumbling steps toward democracy, though, are normal in a transitional period. With countries like Libya, Egypt and Syria undergoing far bloodier transitions, Tunisia still offers hope for a more positive political future in the Arab world.

You May Like

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid