Why the Tunisian Revolution Might Fail


More than a year and half has passed since thousands of Tunisians went to streets to oust ex-president Zine El Abadine Ben Ali and his oppressive regime. Poverty and unemployment have risen since then. Tunisia hasn’t changed much from the police state that it has always been, and the people aren’t satisfied with the outcome of their revolution.

Just recently, it was reported that Tunisian police attacked journalists, while two cartoonists were thrown in jail for 7 years.Citizens still complain about state abuse whether administrative, financial, or more often, physical.

Abuses that would never be accepted in other western democracies are still tolerated in Tunisia. The problem: people get used to the status quo. A minority does speak out, but they always fail to rally support from society at large.

There is no excuse, however, for the failing economy in Tunisia and the unimplemented reforms. It is untrue that the Tunisian revolution had no leadership. Political opposition has existed since the formation of the modern state of Tunisia in the 1950s. But the very fact that these people couldn’t bring about the changes that they’ve been talking and writing about for decades suggests that they should do their people a favor and resign.

To be fair, the problem now in Tunisia isn’t confined to the politicians that people elected freely on October 23. Of the chants that were taken up in the three-month span between December 2010 and March 2011, “Employment, Freedoms, National Dignity” may seem clear at first. But on closer look, it is hard to know if the third term is meant to emerge from the previous two, and equally unclear who the Tunisian people were addressing with these words.

Was the Tunisian revolution an attempt by the Tunisian people to take power for themselves and give themselves new freedoms? Or did they just want to be rid of the-then regime, while still maintaining the same kind of bully state that they had been living under for almost 60 years?

The fact is, not all of the Tunisian people voted to empower themselves. In fact if you look at it more closely, most Tunisians are loosely-speaking ‘socialist,’ whether under European or Nasserist Pan-Arab influence. Many still want the government to employ them, feed them, and take care of them. Others want the state to interfere with people’s liberties and dictate what is politically correct or not.

The result is major state interference in people’s lives, moral choices and money-making. Nobody is going to be happy any time soon. Collectivism will never lead the Tunisian people or the Tunisian state to any better place. But so far, nobody has dared to criticize the Tunisian revolution or the decisions of the Tunisian people.

As a Tunisian student who is a fervent admirer of the American and French revolutions, the Tunisian revolution does not meet my standards. Right now I can only compare it to the colllapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. If that hunch is correct, it will dissipate in just a couple of decades.

Many fascist countries in this world do allow their people to elect their representatives through universal elections. Iran does too; but is that the freedom of which the Tunisian people were dreaming?

This article was originally published on OpenDemocracy.net