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

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the US are seeing gas prices dip below $3 a gallon More

Afghan Women's Soccer Team Building for the Future

A four-team female league was recently set up in Kabul; It will help identify players for the national team More

Video Koreas on Edge Amid Live-fire Drills

Pyongyang threatens nuclear test as joint US, S. Korean exercises show forces’ capabilities 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
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 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 Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
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 Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
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.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid