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

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter 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.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid