What Tunisia Did Right

What Tunisia Did Right - By M. Steven Fish and Katherine E. Michel | Foreign Policy

I missed this piece a couple of weeks ago:

Yet a fact of great weight remains: Tunisia has made remarkable progress toward democracy. To a greater extent than any other country, it has shaken the perception that Arabs are destined to suffer the tutelage of monarchs, militaries, or mullahs. Why is Tunisia leading the way? Institutions -- and especially the constitutional order -- are a big part of the story. Much press coverage has focused on whether Tunisia's new constitution will contain a blasphemy clause. Of far greater import will be how the new fundamental law distributes power between the executive and the legislature. On this vital matter, Tunisia is getting it right. According to a recent empirical study we conducted, Tunisia's decision to create a system with a strong parliament and a constrained president is a recipe for robust democracy. Other countries in the Arab world can learn from Tunisia's example.

I think they've got half the story. The other half is a far more reasonable political class that steered the country wisely through the first six months or so after the fall of Ben Ali, a secular-Islamist divide where at least some people had the sense to build bridges across, and a transitional administration led by an elderly man, Beji Caid Essebsi, who was much more on the ball than the awful leadership provided by Hussein Tantawy's SCAF in Egypt. No wonder they can say "Tunisians are uprooting dictatorship, not merely expelling the dictator." 

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.