KT edit: Democracy is alive and vibrant in Tunisia

Economic travails persist and basic necessities still come at a price but, overall successes outweigh the failures.



Published: Mon 14 Oct 2019, 8:00 PM

Last updated: Mon 14 Oct 2019, 10:27 PM

Tunisia has come a long way from the days of the Jasmine Revolution in 2010. One of the success stories of the Arab Spring that brought monumental changes to the political landscape of the Middle East, Tunisia has stuck with the democratic process that is now paying dividends. People protested against the low standards of living and high corruption in the dictatorial government of Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali in 2011. Mohammed Bouazizi, a street vendor, set himself on fire, which sparked off demonstrations in the region. Their struggle resonated in other countries and the revolution spread like wildfire. Years later, Tunisia has made a ballot-led peaceful transition to a full-fledged democracy with a new constitution. Sure, there are flaws in the system. Economic travails persist and basic necessities still come at a price but, overall successes outweigh the failures.
Tunisians are now turning a fresh page by elevating a relatively unknown law professor to the highest political office in the country. But Kais Saied's rise reflects a global trend. Seasoned politicians are being shown the door in countries where corruption is rampant. People are willing to give 'outsiders' a chance, or choose leaders whose credentials in their respective fields sets them up for government roles.
Saied spent his career teaching constitutional law at a university in Tunis. He retired in 2018 to launch his political campaign. What won him mass support wasn't his campaign skills but his appeal that rests on the premise that he is incorruptible and civic-minded. Violence hasn't deterred Tunisia from pressing ahead with democracy. It has endured an attack on the US Embassy, political assassinations, assaults on military installations along the Algerian border, terror attacks on tourists and attempted insurgency. Whether the 'robot man' will be able to revive the economy is something that we have to wait and watch. But this election result has brought much-need needed optimism in the country. Tunisians have shown that they are democratically resilient, that power rests with the people and they will change their political leaders whose performance is below par through the power of their votes.


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