31 October 2014
Tunisia recently held its second election since the overthrow of the autocratic Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011. The election was by all accounts free and fair with a decent turnout (60 per cent). A liberal party, Nida Tunis, won the most seats, replacing the moderate Islamist Ennahda as the dominant party in parliament and gaining the right to name a prime minister and lead a coalition government. It has ruled out a coalition with the Islamists, turning instead to a collection of smaller parties.
The country faces serious problems, particularly economic. For instance, youth unemployment of around 34 per cent is turning young people off politics, not a good sign when these were the very people who provoked the revolution. Nonetheless, the democratic experiment is progressing well.
True, Tunisia has advantages other Arab countries do not: no sectarian, ethnic, religious or tribal divides to speak of; a largely urbanized and educated population; a substantial middle class and a thriving civil society. Pessimistically, without the same advantages, other Arab nations may be immersed in a world of violent Islamists, military dictatorships, corrupt theocracies and oppressive monarchies for a long time. Optimistically, the fully-fledged democracy of Tunisia will inspire them as an example of a better way. It offers hope. Western governments should embrace and support it.
Posted by Bill Longstaff at 12:19 pm