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Daily View: What next for Tunisia?

Clare Spencer | 09:32 UK time, Monday, 17 January 2011

Protesters walk through tear gas during clashes with riot police in downtown of the capital Tunis January 14, 2011.

Commentators speculate about what is next for Tunisia after street riots led to their government being overthrown.

Anne Applebaum warns in the Washington Post that Tunisia's street riots might not install a democracy:

"Street demonstrations can unexpectedly bring extremists into power, as they did in Iran in 1979. They can create unrealistic expectations and then unravel, as did the Orange Revolution that began in Ukraine in 2004. And they can end badly, with reactionary violence, like the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square.
"By contrast, the most successful transitions to democracy are often undramatic. Consider Spain, after the death of Franco; Chile, after the resignation of Pinochet; Poland, which negotiated its way out of communism; all of these democratic transitions dragged on, created few spectacular photographs - and ultimately led to stable political systems."

Sholto Byrnes argues in the New Statesman that Saudi Arabia should be thanked for accepting Tunisia's ousted president:

"So far from rushing to criticise the country so many love to hate, Saudi Arabia may deserve Tunisia's thanks for helping its former dictator to decide on instant exile. At least 50 people have died in the riots and unrest so far. If Ben Ali had stayed to fight to maintain his rule for as long as he could, there would undoubtedly have been a far more bitter and bloody end. The price of saving who knows how many lives may be letting an old tyrant off scot-free. No other country would provide him that get out card. Perhaps we should be grateful that Saudi Arabia did."

Mona Eltahawy says in the Guardian that what has happened in Tunisia is the first real revolution in the Arab world and as such is a time worth celebrating:

"If every Arab leader has watched Tunisia in fear, then every Arab citizen has watched in hope because it was neither Islamists - long used by our leaders to scare many into acquiescence - nor foreign troops that toppled the dictator: it was ordinary and very fed up people.
"Tunisians must remember that during these days of chaos. We're hearing reports that neighbourhood watch committees have sprung up to protect against looting and violence, which many blame on Ben Ali's loyalists."

Director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut Rami Khouri predicts in the Financial Times the consequences for the rest of the Arab world:

"Leaders will take pre-emptive economic measures, announcing public-sector salary increases, job-creation programmes or commodity price reductions, in a bid to ward off demonstrations. Meanwhile, social issues, such as health insurance, pension schemes and subsidised housing will rise to the fore of public debate in poorer countries, as will corruption and its ravages on the state.
"Meanwhile, the region's traditionally embattled civil society activists will mobilise to challenge their governments more aggressively. Some will hold street demonstrations. There will also be new efforts to use the courts and enfeebled parliamentary systems to challenge abuses of power. In particular we are likely to see a frontal assault on election systems in some countries, with democracy activists demanding an end to gerrymandering districts and more credible representation of the citizenry in parliaments that now have little credibility."

On Al Jazeera Mark LeVine from the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University in Sweden says the US government should not sit on the fence about Tunisia:

"While the United States and the international community should not directly intervene unless the military begins killing or arresting large numbers of people, there are a number of steps Obama could take immediately to ensure that this nascent democratic moment takes root and spreads across the region.
"First, the President should not merely urge free and fair elections. He must publicly declare that the United States will not recognise, nor continue security or economic relations, with any government that is not democratically elected through international monitored elections. At the same time, he must freeze any assets of Tunisia's now ex-leadership and hold them until they can be reclaimed by the Tunisian people."

Links in full
Anne Applebaum | Washington Post | Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution might not install a democracy
Sholto Byrnes | New Statesman | Exile, sweet exile
Mona Eltahawy | Guardian | Tunisia: the first Arab revolution
Rami Khouri | Financial Times | Tunisia heralds a long battle for reform
Mark LeVine | Al Jazeera | Tunisia: How the US got it wrong

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