- On December 17, 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi committed suicide to protest against the poverty and precariousness of the Tunisian youth. His death, after weeks of protests, will eventually lead to the overthrow of Ben Ali’s dictatorial regime.
- If Tunisia is certainly better off than most other countries that have experienced their “Arab Spring”, their political and economic situation remains difficult.
- According to experts, we must not judge the Tunisian revolution too quickly as a failure. A revolutionary process is long and ten years are short.
Who could say, ten years ago, the day after the suicide of Mohamed Bouazizi, in Sidi Bouzid, in Tunisia, that this event would be the spark of Arab Spring, which would disturb part of North Africa and the Middle East? From Tunisia to Libya, from Egypt to Syria. A decade later, Tunisia is arguably the country that has done its best alongside an Egypt that has returned to the status, a Syria bled by civil war and a Libya in chaos.
“Democratic institutions have been established and still exist, it is already a great success”, said Judge Amel Boubekeur, sociologist at EHESS. But in addition, ten years later, the jasmine looks faded. “The country is in crisis,” admits the political scientist specializing in Tunisia, Aude-Annabelle Canesse. The fault of what or who? Opinions differ.
Political arrangements and an economic crisis
Amel Boubekeur accuses political parties, guilty of marginalizing institutions to promote their private agendas. “Very early there was a loss of interest in the elections, which were more or less transparent. Because if there is indeed a multi-party competition, it is like privatization. “Between Islamists on the one hand and the ghosts of Ben Ali’s old dictatorial regime, it is difficult for new candidates to emerge during elections that have “no concrete impact on the lives of Tunisians”. “Sometimes we talk about consensus in the political class, I think we should talk about arrangements first. ”
Aude-Annabelle Canesse, a specialist in representing international organizations, is less severe with political figures, focusing instead on the economic crisis from which the country is not recovering. “It is often said that the fault lies with the revolution, I believe that it is rather the collapse of the liberal economic system created by Ben Ali, based on exports, that causes the situation today. The international situation, with the terrorism that has repeatedly hit Tunisia, has also damaged tourism, a fundamental sector of the local economy.
The population, which has seen its standard of living drop due to rampant inflation, also finds itself with less efficient management than Ben Ali’s. She is bogged down, “tired,” acknowledges Aude-Annabelle Canesse. And there is, here or there, a certain nostalgia, a “before was better”. “But it is a great classic of revolutions,” interrupts Amel Boubekeur immediately. This romanticization of the Ben Ali era is empty, a criticism of today’s political elites. “And then it is easy to say that before it was better when we had the party card that gave privileges on a daily basis”, breathes Aude-Annabelle Canesse.
“Few people would like to go back to before,” thinks Amel Boubekeur. A sentiment confirmed by Aude-Annabelle Canesse, who recalls political prisoners, the single party, the country’s closure under Ben Ali. “At the time of the revolution there was a major political upheaval. The situation cannot be stable immediately: And then, it is not necessarily a bad omen. It’s normal. There is a big change compared to the years of Ben Ali and Bouguiba. And in public opinion there are also those who consider that the current situation is the price to pay for democracy”, reports the political scientist.
Democracy is unstable
“There is political instability, but it is a consequence of freedom of expression and multipartyism,” adds Aude-Annabelle Canesse, who is betting on a new generation of journalists who are forming and emerging in a country and a power having changed its relationship with the media. “We also have to talk about the cultural abundance created by the revolution, which is very impressive,” he insists. The specialist, who lived in Tunisia several years before and after the revolution, summarizes the changes that have taken place in the past ten years in a formula: “Yes, you can see women in niqabs on the street, which would not have happened. it has never been the case before. But on the same day, I also saw young people smoking cannabis, that would not have been possible either. ”
Even though she thinks she would go faster, and that she has noticed blockages in recent years, Aude-Annabelle Canesse “refuses to think it’s over”. The two experts insist that a revolutionary process takes a long time. Especially in the case of a country, Tunisia, which seems to have no democratic tradition from afar. “The rebalancing of powers is not finished, notes Amel Boubekeur. For ten years, a demonstration culture has emerged and never stopped. As the political landscape froze, the revolution was said to be over. But on the ground, the revolt continues. ”