Tunisia, 10 years of fragile democracy after Ben Ali

But thus far the Jasmine Revolution was the only successful one

26 July, 18:07

    (ANSAmed) - ROME, 26 LUG - It was December 17, 2010 when a young Tunisian fruit peddler, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire in front of the governorate of Sidi Bouzid to protest the unfair seizure of his goods by the authorities.

    This shocking gesture triggered what was called the Jasmine Revolution throughout Tunisia.

    In a short time the revolt spread as if by a domino effect also in many other countries of North Africa and the Middle East, in particular Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen, igniting the hopes of a true Arab Spring.

    Ten years later, only Tunisia has been able to claim that it has managed to continue on the path of democracy, at least until Sunday.

    The events of recent hours mark a serious setback in a march that initially led in matter of weeks, on January 14, 2011, to the overthrow of the dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, who had been in power since 1987, after having ousted Habib Bourghiba in a coup.

    After the overthrow, Ben Ali took refuge in Saudi Arabia and suffered numerous convictions in absentia, including life imprisonment for the death of some protesters.

    He later died in 2019 in a clinic in Jeddah.

    The election in October 2011 of a constituent assembly brought to power the parties that had opposed Ben Ali, in particular Ennahda, the moderate Islamic party, which obtained 37% of the votes and 89 seats; and the Congress for the Republic, a reformist secular party, which obtained 8.7% of the votes and 29 seats.

    But above all it led to a new Constitution, which went into effect on January 26, 2014 and introduced guarantees of equality and freedom in the country for the first time, including that of speech, and established the division of executive power between the president, the prime minister and the speaker of the Parliament.

    However, the new charter also produced serious instability, which led to the formation and sinking of a long series of new governments, at the rate of one per year.

    And that led to the clash between Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and Parliament Speaker Riad Gannouchi with President Kais Saied, a constitutional law professor elected in October 2019 as an independent with 72% of the vote, based on an anti-corruption platform.

    The clash came about on the wave of widespread discontent due to unemployment, which saw one-third of young people out of work and an economy in crisis now more than ever, including due to the pandemic.

    Meanwhile, disenchantment with politics has grown, as evidenced by the steady decline in voter turnout.

    During the last seven elections, participation dropped from a high of 68% in 2014 to 42% in 2019.

    And it is perhaps also testified by the scenes of jubilation yesterday in the streets of Tunis following Saied's announcement of what appears to be an authoritarian turn.

    The only success story of the Arab Spring risks ending here.


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