News / Middle East

Tunisia Continues on Democratic Path, But Future Remains Uncertain

Thousands hold banners during a silent demonstration as they demand that Tunisians return to work and stop protests, March 5, 2011
Thousands hold banners during a silent demonstration as they demand that Tunisians return to work and stop protests, March 5, 2011
Lisa Bryant

Tunisia's interim president has announced elections for July. But nearly two months after protesters ousted longtime strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the future of the North African country is anything but certain. Many are watching Tunisia's political transition closely, hoping it might serve as a prototype for democracy in the Arab world.

It has become a familiar sound in Tunisia, protesters calling for the ouster of all government members tied to the former regime of ex-president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

So has young men clashing with security forces in downtown Tunis.

On Friday, the demonstrators folded up their tents in the capital, where they had been camping out in front of government headquarters. Many of their demands have been met. Several ministers have resigned in the latest government reshuffle, including interim Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi, a holdover of the Ben Ali government.

And Tunisia's interim president Fouad Mebazaa has announced a July vote for a council that will rewrite the constitution, paving the way for general elections.

Speaking on state television, Mebazaa said Tunisia had entered a new phase toward establishing a system that breaks from the old regime.

But ask Tunisians what kind of system that should be, in the short or the long term, and you will get many different answers.

Twenty-six-year-old student Ibtissem Sabry wants the army in control until democratic elections take place. "I am sure that the country will be safe, very safe, in the hands of the military system," Sabry said.

Another student activist who gave only her first name Yiefa, has other ideas.

Yiefa wants Tunisia to elect a communist government.

Meanwhile, instability continues. And many Tunisians, like rights activist Khadija Cherif, are worried.

Cherif fears that holdovers from the old regime are intent on sowing panic and chaos. Former Prime Minister Ghannouchi has also warned of a counter-revolutionary "conspiracy" and announced the arrest of dozens of suspects.

Tunisia's economy continues to struggle with strikes and high unemployment, which helped fuel the popular revolt. There are also questions about whether former President Ben Ali and his extended family pocketed billions of dollars of state funds.

And the country has been overwhelmed by tens of thousands of people fleeing the unrest in neighboring Libya. Last week, the Paris-based international bond rating firm Fitch Ratings again downrated the country's long-term debt rating, reflecting fears of ongoing instability.

Eric Goldstein is deputy director of North African and Middle East programs for Human Rights Watch. "Even if they can make the current transitional government [leave], it does not meant they are going to provide jobs for all the people who are unemployed,” said Goldstein. “It does not mean the cities of the interior are going to have thriving economies. These things take a long time."

But these are also exciting times. Tunisians are taking their future into their hands. In the southern town of Zarzis, residents have ousted their local government and are running matters.

Berlin-based Tunisian journalists Zuhir Latif came back to his country in January for the first time in 17 years.

"This young generation, we see it in the streets, still continue to defend their rights on many issues,” Latif said. “They know the big sacrifice they did. They are determined. They will not come back again to see the same situation (as) before Ben Ali."

Tunisia's protests have inspired the uprisings now washing across the Arab world. Farez Mabrouk, head of the newly opened Arab Policy Institute in Tunis, says how this country emerges from its so-called "Jasmine Revolution" will be critical.

"I think Tunisia can be a laboratory for democracy in the Arab world ... the success of the Tunisian case is very important for the whole Arab world," said Mabrouk.

Mabrouk does not believe all Arab countries will experience similar revolutions. But he is certain of one thing; authoritarian Arab governments will be forced to open the political arena and respond to their people's calls for change.

 

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More