The Arab Spring sent up many green shoots – but few have endured.
In Egypt, an essentially military regime briefly gave way to a democratic movement, but elections led to a Muslim Brotherhood government with little interest in genuine democracy; then a coup brought back the status quo ante: secularist Nasserite militarism.
In Libya, Moammar Gadhafi’s dictatorship has been replaced by anarchy. Syria has become a house of horrors, and the fount of a huge refugee crisis.
Among the countries in which there was an Arab Spring only Tunisia is in reasonably good shape. Change started there when a street vendor, Mohammed Bouazizi, burned himself to death in 2011, in despair at the harassment of a corrupt bureaucracy. Soon after, the dictatorship collapsed.
The difference between Tunisia and its neighbours is that the dictatorship has been replaced by something that looks like democracy, and one that stands a chance of enduring.
In Tunisia, four civil society organizations have persistently worked to keep the country on the path of resolving disputes through politics and law, not violence: the Tunisian General Labour Union (the equivalent of the Canadian Labour Congress), the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Commerce and Handicrafts, the Tunisian Human Rights League and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers – the national bar association.
This “National Dialogue Quartet” has now been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2015 by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. It is an excellent choice, though less obvious than some famous diplomat or a head of government from some large country.
The group has been unstinting in developing a national consensus. Tunisia could easily have descended into severe conflict between secularists (some of them from the old dictatorship) and a large Islamist party. There is cause to hope that, in due course, more competitive elections, with an alternation of parties in power, will become the norm.
There is still work to do to consolidating democracy, but the Quartet, the parliament and the electorate are on the right path. The Arab Spring is not dead yet.Report Typo/Error
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