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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level 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.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid