Tunisia: A Prosperous Revolt?
By Anvi Mahagaokar
In Roman history, there was only one man who was willing to relinquish power for the sake of the country – a farmer named Cincinnatus, who, after being called for dictatorship during war, gave up his position so Rome could function normally again once the war was won. This kind of patriotism is rarely found anymore, and instead, the public observes politicians who seem to prioritize only one thing (and it’s not the well being of their constituents). They seek reelection. Therefore, it came as a coup de grace when interim Islamist Prime Minister Larayedh voluntarily stepped down in order to facilitate the democratization of the country – which had previously been hindered by the Islamist government. Larayedh’s sacrifice allowed the passage of the new Tunisian Constitution, something that analysts have praised as a revival of the original Arab Spring spark. The Constitution is great for Tunisia in many ways. First, it placates the once furious members of Tunisia, it gives women more rights, and it will aid in economic recovery.
Revolutions may be a means to propagate progress in a nation, but it can also very easily lead to a paroxysm of rebellions led by the idealistic and angry youth. Tunisia’s Constitution is finally something that the youth of Tunisia can accept because it is fairly liberal and is not too lax on policies that the government must implement. It also represents a symbol of government-people interaction, which was a major source of contention in the first revolution. They finally feel as though they have a say in how the government enacts policies, and that is a heady feeling in a world filled with political apathy. The content that these citizens feel is to the benefit of future stability in the country, because if the constituents are pleased with the way the government is handling political, economic, and social issues, then the desire for revolution is lessened exponentially. A decrease in the likelihood of revolution is one of the best scenarios for Tunisia because it makes people (not just in the country itself) less wary of events to come.
While Middle Eastern countries have scaled back on women’s rights since the Arab Spring first started, the Tunisian Constitution has made waves by allowing the country’s women citizens more rights than before. In pre-Arab Spring Tunisia, there were many discriminatory laws that eschewed gender equality. One law that was particularly archaic was the ‘Inheritance Law’ which entitled women only half the share of what their male peers would receive. The new Constitution has specific articles in it, which strictly prohibit any gender specific discriminatory laws. While there is still a dispute on how far these laws will be interpreted, it is still a huge leap for women in Tunisia, who are growing more independent, and need the laws to evolve in tandem for their society to flourish. This will hopefully pave the way for future laws involving gender equality in the region, because in order to fully grow as a society, all components of the same society need to be regarded as equal.
Finally, all of these changes in the Tunisian political atmosphere will hopefully also bring economic prosperity to the country. The Middle East has long since been known as the problem area for the rest of the world, and this image was solidified after the repeated failures of the revolutions. Yet, Tunisia, as the only country to emerge victorious from this dispute, hopes to capitalize upon this novelty. They are hoping that the newfound stability inside the government and society will bring about investors, who are eager to dip their feet into a relatively stable Middle Eastern country to diversify (and maybe get a gander at their oil). By doing so, they will revitalize their economy, and gain something other than political benefits from this progressiveness.
So all in all, while it’s been a long time coming, Tunisia has managed to pull itself out of the typhoon of revolution that has encompassed the rest of the misfortunate and indecisive countries in the Middle East. With their new constitution, perhaps Tunisia can bring the Arab Spring full circle, and end it where it started.
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