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

    Ethiopia's Anti-terrorism Law: Security or Silencing Dissent?

    Yonatan Tesfaye was detained in December 2015 on charges under Ethiopia's Anti-Terrorism Proclamation; eleven statements from his Facebook page were used as evidence

    Egypt Orders Trial for Journalists Charged With Harboring Reporters

    Order targets journalists' union chief Yehia Qalash, Khaled al-Balshy and Gamal Abdel Rahim for allegedly spreading false news, harboring fugitive colleagues

    Nigerian Oil Production Falls as Militant Attacks Take Toll

    Country no longer Africa's petroleum king due to renewed militancy in its oil-producing region

    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 Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahdai
    X
    Lisa Schlein
    May 31, 2016 1:56 PM
    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahda

    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Mobile App Allows Dutch Muslims to Rate their Imams

    If a young Dutch-Moroccan app developer has his way, Muslims in the Netherlands will soon be able to rate their imams online. Mohamed Mouman says imams rarely get feedback from their followers. He believes his app can give prayer leaders a better picture of what's happening in their communities — and can also keep young people from being radicalized. Serginho Roosblad reports from Amsterdam.
    Video

    Video Moscow Condemns NATO Plans to Beef Up Defense in Eastern Europe, Baltics

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday an upcoming "landmark summit" will enhance the alliance's defensive and deterrent presence in eastern Europe and the Baltics. He is visiting Poland ahead of the NATO Summit in Warsaw. Zlatica Hoke reports
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video F-35 Fighter Jet Draws Criticisms as Costs Mount

    America’s latest fighter plane, the F-35, has been mired in controversy. Critics cite cost, faulty design, and the attempt to use it to fill multiple roles. Even the pilot’s helmet is controversial. VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Concerns Over Civilian Suffering as Iraqi Forces Surround Fallujah

    Thousands of residents are trapped inside the IS-held city ahead of a full scale Iraqi offensive aimed at retaking it.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora