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 Iran Nuclear Deal Becomes US Campaign Issue

Voters in three crucial battleground states - Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania - overwhelmingly oppose nuclear deal with Iran More

With IS in Coalition Cross-Hairs, al-Qaida's Syria Affiliate Reemerges

Jabhat al-Nusra has rebounded, increasingly casting itself as a critical player in battle for Syria’s future More

Lessons Learned From Katrina, 10 Years Later

FEMA chief Craig Fugate says key changes include better preparation, improved coordination among state, federal assistance agencies 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs