In 2011 Tunisia was the first Arab country to oust its dictator. People power is now targeting democrats
Tunisia is starting to feel a lot like 2011. Then the self-immolation of a street vendor over repression and unemployment sparked an uprising that became the Arab spring, beginning with the fall of the Tunisian strongman Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. Now, seven years after the dictator’s departure, Tunisians have taken to the streets over an austerity programme and rising prices. At least one demonstrator has been killed and hundreds arrested in sometimes violent confrontations.
For some, Tunisia may be too small, too lacking in oil wealth or too lightly populated to warrant much attention. But since 2011 it has eclipsed all other Arab nations in building democratic institutions and adopting a liberal constitution. Civil society won a Nobel peace prize. Tunisia’s gains were not easily achieved; nor are they close to secure. Successive governments have failed to bring about the kind of revival Tunisians hoped for from elective government. The north African economy is lacklustre, unable to create enough jobs and with its foreign exchange earner – tourism – battered by terror attacks. It’s been forced to borrow $2.9bn from the IMF, in return for which unpopular price hikes and spending cuts are being pushed.