News / Middle East

Tunisians Fear Democracy Transition Stalling

Tunisians Fear Democracy Transition is Stallingi
|| 0:00:00
X
Lisa Bryant and Roderick James
September 28, 2012 5:18 PM
Almost a year after Tunisia held its first free elections, many fear the North African country's transition to a vibrant democracy has stalled. The economy is struggling, the government is divided, and Tunisians are locked in intensive debates about their future. Lisa Bryant reports for VOA from Tunis.
Lisa Bryant
Almost a year after Tunisia held its first free elections, many fear the North African country's transition to a vibrant democracy has stalled. The economy is struggling, the government is divided, and Tunisians are locked in intensive debates about their future.

After a tumultuous 2011, things are getting back to normal. As the evening falls, Tunis residents gather in cafes to drink tea and maybe smoke a water pipe.

On the main Habib Bourguiba Avenue, coils of barbed wire and the occasional tank spark memories of last year's revolution - a revolution that triggered the wider Arab uprising.

Looking forward

Many here are worried about the future. Among them: architecture student Miriam Kricha, 19, who is strolling down Habib Bourguiba with her boyfriend.

Kricha says she's worried about finding work, even with a university diploma. She believes it will be especially difficult as a woman. 

Young people aren't the only ones looking for jobs. Former minister and diplomat Hatem Ben Salem says the government has sidelined a cadre of experienced civil servants from the old regime.

"They wanted to build Tunisia, to build a state, to develop the country. And they are here, looking at what is happening, and they are excluded," Ben Salem says, adding that what is happening in Tunisia is worrying.

Economy

The economy is struggling to get back on its feet. Tourists are back, but not in the droves of pre-revolutionary days and Tunisians complain that basic services and security have eroded.

Rachid Ghannouchi, leader of the ruling Islamist Ennahda party, says despite its problems Tunisia is moving forward both economically and politically.

But Ghannouchi acknowledges that Tunisia is experiencing a very difficult democratic transition. After half a century of dictatorship, Tunisians are learning how to balance freedom and order.

Striking that balance isn't easy. Along with economic problems, there are enormous political and religious tensions.

Today, Arab Policy Institute head Fares Mabrouk says, a negotiations are underway over the role of government, civil society and human rights.

"Actually, it's a negotiation about what type of democracy we want. We have to create something new, something that does not exist. We don't have a reference," explains Mabrouk.

Islam's role

The role of Islam is among the biggest issues being debated in this young democracy. Rights advocates worry that conservative interpretations of the Muslim religion will roll back free expression and women's rights.

Extremist Islam is one of the biggest worries. Salafists are increasingly visible, not only on the streets but in politics.

Mokhtar Trifi is a senior member of the Tunisian League of Human Rights. Little by little, Trifi says, extremists are trying to impose an aggressive form of Islam. Sometimes through violence, sometimes through fear.

But Ghannouchi says Salafists have the right to air their views and form political associations - so long as they don't break the law. Free expression, he says, is one of the victories of the revolution.

Tunisia's transition to democracy is taking longer than many anticipated. There are growing doubts that parliament will complete the new constitution by its October deadline. Or that elections will be held early next year, as was hoped.

But hope is still something Tunisians like Mohamed Aouani believe in.

Aouani says completing the revolution will take time. And people here appear willing to wait for a better future.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid