In the Los Angeles Times op-ed below, Prof. Joshua Muravchik discusses problems with Tunisia’s democratic transition.
Tunisia’s dark turn
Will the Arab Spring’s most promising democracy blacklist candidates?
While Egypt’s revolution devolves into chaos, Tunisia’s democratic transition, which until now has been the most promising of any in the Arab world, is also in jeopardy. A bill being pushed by Islamists and their allies in National Constituent Assembly called the “law for the protection of the revolution” seems in reality designed to protect the ruling Islamist party, Nahda, from having to face real competition in the next elections.
Like its sister party, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Nahda triumphed in Tunisia’s first free election, in 2011. In addition to having been the best known and most cohesive opposition force under then-dictator Zine el Abidine ben Ali, Nahda benefited from the exuberance of liberal-minded Tunisians who exercised their newly won freedom by forming dozens of parties, splintering the secular vote.
Nonetheless, Nahda garnered only a plurality, forcing it to govern in coalition with non-Islamists. This constrained it to relative moderation and spared it from some of the mistakes that have now backfired on Egypt’s Islamists.