July 29, 2014

Revolutionary Road: The Arab Spring After the Revolution

Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali resigned on Feb. 19, citing in a press statement that “the resignation of the prime minister and failure of this initiative does not mean the failure of Tunisia; it does not mean the failure of the revolution.”

He was right that the revolutions sparked during the Arab Spring have not failed, but his resignation does point out that the road to democracy and equality for these countries will be fraught with difficulty.

Since the successful revolution and ousting of former president Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali, Tunisia has undergone a rather peaceful revolutionary process. Tunisia was the first country to undergo the Arab Spring and successfully overthrow an autocratic government but the resignation of the Prime Minister was prompted by the failure of his party, Ennahda, to form a technocratic government as well as mass protests over the assassination of Chokri Belaid.

Tunisia isn’t the only country that has struggled since overthrowing an autocratic government. Dissent is quietly but quickly growing in Yemen after interim president Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi praised the use of drones by the United States. In addition, Egypt saw large-scale protests in late January over concerns that President Mohamed Morsi was on his way to mirroring Hosni Mubarak. Countries like Yemen, Egypt and Tunisia, which all successfully ousted autocratic governments, are still trying to stabilize and regroup after the
sometimes violent and drawn out revolution. The truth is they still have a long and arduous journey ahead of them.

One of the primary goals of the Arab Spring was to bring forth open democracies and equality. High unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, and food prices were common themes as was the presence of a highly oppressive government. Yes, protestors were able to overthrow their governments, but this doesn’t mean the revolution is over yet. The resignation of Hamadi Jebali is just the tip of the iceberg.

Establishing a government that appeases the masses and political elite is not an easy task. Referendums are ongoing in some countries such as Yemen and Egypt as the political process is restructured and changed to fit where society is in each individual country, but people need to be aware that ousting old governments is not the final cure for the problems they faced. Jebali’s resignation highlights that governments need to reform and adapt to the ideas of
equality and democracy in whatever form will work for each nation. Economic reform needs to occur, which will naturally take time. Just because the primary goal of a new government has been achieved, doesn’t mean the battle is over.

Hamadi Jebali did get one thing right when he said his resignation did not mean the revolution had failed. Arab Spring Nations are in the midst of a rebuilding cycle in which they will see partial success and failure. Jebali was unable to form a coalition government that supported a Tunisian technocracy. Yemen has been unable to form a government that is able to balance the needs of the general public and the will of the highly factionalized tribal elites that held control over Ai Abdullah Saleh, the former president of Yemen. Egypt is struggling to find balance between a religious and secular government and fears Morsi and Mubarak may be more similar then they originally thought.

The resignation of Jebali is just one step for Tunisia, and one you can anticipate seeing through the Middle East and Northern Africa. Revolution is a process not just an event, and the Arab Spring nations, particularly Tunisia, are only part of the way down this revolutionary road.

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