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TOPIC: arab spring

Geopolitics

Tunisia’s New Constitution And Risks Of A Return To “Presidential Dictatorship”

In the cradle of the Arab Spring, democracy is once again at stake.

Modern Tunisia has adopted three different constitutions. The first two were linked to proud moments in the nation’s history: independence from France in 1956, and the fruit of the 2011 Arab Spring pro-democracy movement that ousted strongman President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who had ruled the country for almost 24 years.

The adoption of a third constitution, which Tunisians were called to vote on in a referendum on Monday, has been a very different story. Though exit polls report that more than 90% of those voting approved the new constitution, the referendum saw a low turnout of just above 30% after the major political parties boycotted the vote.

Still, with no minimum turnout required or expected legal challenges to the referendum results, by Saturday Tunisia is set to be governed by the new constitution when the final results of the referendum are announced.

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Ukraine War, North African Food Shortages And Whiff Of A New Arab Spring

Rising tensions in wheat productions, explosion of oil prices, fear of the unknown, could the Ukraine war lead to a popular Arab uprising similar to the one in 2011?

TUNIS — History tells us that in 2010-2011 the rise in prices for raw materials, especially wheat, was one of the main causes of the uprisings that spread across the Arab world.

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Today, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is putting many of the world's economies dependent on wheat imports to the test, notably in North Africa. This prompts the question: Could there be a second “Arab Spring?”

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The Mirage Of Egypt’s New Capital City

In an area the size of Singapore, Egypt is building its new capital. Constructed under the close control of the military and the head of state, the city embodies the grand ambitions of an increasingly autocratic president. But will it turn out to be a ghost city?

CAIRO — The concrete structure rises to a height of 1,263 feet (385 meters) on the edge of an expressway, where asphalt, as soon as it is laid down, lets out acrid fumes. With its double collar that licks the sky, the Iconic Tower is already the tallest building in Africa. It is also the flagship of this vast assembly of open-air construction sites over 450 square miles, an area the size of Singapore, which will be the location of the new Egyptian capital.

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Tunisia's Drift From Democratic Revolution To Authoritarianism

The Tunisian president is cultivating his ambiguities and pushing his constitutional reform, without proposing a roadmap to get the country out of the crisis. Refusing to speak to the media, he has an increasingly populist tone with messianic accents.

-Analysis-

TUNIS — President Kaïs Saïed likes to surprise. Everyone expected an event on December 17 to mark the 11th anniversary of the founding event of the revolution, the immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi. It was finally in a speech on television on the evening of December 13 that Saïed announced that parliament would remain for a year until the next general elections, using a new electoral law — which amounts to a de-facto dissolution of the parliament. Only one thing is certain: he retains the full powers he assumed on July 25.

Until then, Tunisians are invited to vote on a constitutional reform project, an "electronic popular consultation" that will be held from January to March and will be sanctioned by a referendum in July 2022. Because according to the tenant of Carthage, the current semi-presidential regime based on the 2014 constitution is the source of all the ills from which Tunisia suffers.

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Geopolitics
Mohamed Tozy

Autopsy Of The Muslim Brotherhood's Failed Political Project

A decade after the Arab Spring, the Islamist political movement driven by the Muslim Brotherhood, from Egypt to Morocco and beyond, continues to flirt with more extreme Salafist elements to build popular support — and continues to show its utter incapacity to properly run a national government.

-Analysis-

The momentous setback of the Moroccan Justice and Development Party (PJD) this past September has had everyone in the political world talking, including Islamists themselves. Abdelilah Benkirane, the former prime minister who returned as the head of the party following an extraordinary congress on Oct. 30, emphasized the responsibility of the party itself in this defeat, including "internal quarrels and renouncing the values of Islam and the fundamentals of Islamist militancy, including selflessness."

The outgoing party leaders, instead, described the defeat as a kind of puzzle, even leaving the doors open to "deep state" conspiracy theories.

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Ideas
Sophie Amsili

Tunisia, An Ambiguous Role Model For Women's Rights In The Arab World

Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed caused a stir by appointing Najla Bouden, the first female head of government in the Arab world. But as the president has assumed full powers a decade after the launch of the Arab Spring, it is a choice with a mixed message.

TUNIS — On Najla Bouden's recent visit to Paris to participate in a conference on Libya, every step was being watched closely. The new head of the Tunisian government appeared both at ease and discreet. Her public agility may explain why Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed chose Bouden for this position with limited political weight, two-and-a-half months after he took full powers of the North African nation, where the Arab Spring began a decade ago.

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Ideas
Carl-Johan Karlsson

Gaddafi And Marcos Jr., When A Dictator’s Son Runs For President

Over the past few weeks, the offspring of two of the 20th centuries most ruthless strongmen have announced they'd like to become the (democratically elected) leaders of Libya and the Philippines.

-Analysis-

PARIS — The son of the brutal Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi announced this week he is running for president, which follows a similar headline last month from Ferdinand Marcos Jr. What does this say about the state of democracy?

It was about a half-century ago that two of the most brutal dictatorships of the modern era began.

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Geopolitics
Frédéric Bobin

Tunisia, Where The Arab Spring Blossomed And Democracy Now Withers

North Africa correspondent Frédéric Bobin analyzes Tunisian President Kais Saied’s recent decision to suspend parliament and sack Prime Minister Mechichi and what it means for the legacy of the Arab Spring — for Tunisia and for the region.

-Analysis-

In Tunis, suspending an elected parliament and ordering the army to cordon off the surrounding area is a symbol that speaks volumes. Tunisia, the true pioneer of the 2011 Arab Spring movement, is trapped, both geographically and ideologically, between neighboring countries that saw it as a hope for democracy. So much so, in fact, that what is happening in Tunisia has ramifications across the region.

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Egypt
Lina Attalah

Opening Closed Rooms Of History: The Arab Spring 10 Years On

The editor of Mada Masr writes about what how to remember the revolution in Egypt.

-Analysis-

It is the 10th anniversary of the Arab Spring, and we can't quite escape that substance called remembrance. Yet, eschewing facile modes of nostalgic remembrance and/or tragic lamentation, we opt for asking questions: How the passing of time changes our understanding of the revolutionary event? What does this event, and what came after, tell of an Arab revolutionary tradition? And what sites of micro-politics emerged in the last 10 years, informing our conception of the broader polity of the region? In a dual invocation of the dead and the living, we aim to confront anew classical political questions on history and reckoning with the past, mobilization, organization, ideology and national identity. We also aim to explore specific areas of contestation that continue to radically redefine post-2011 politics and potentially point us to imagining certain possible futures.

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LA STAMPA
Niccolò Zancan

For A Tunisian City, The Mediterranean Offers Hope And Death

In the southern city of El Hamma, young Tunisians attempt to emigrate all the time for a dangerous journey across the Mediterranean. One recent tragedy left dozens dead.

EL HAMMA — Departing in mass from this small southern city, 74 young, unemployed Tunisians left in search of a brighter future in Europe. On June 3, 44 of them died in the treacherous waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

Sitting on a plastic chair outside his house in El Hamma, Ben Farah Adouni confirms that his son Tarek died that day. "They should've at least organized a state funeral. But for the Tunisian government, our sons are worthless whether they're dead or alive."

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LA STAMPA
Niccolò Zancan

The Arab Spring Didn't Change My Life, A New Tunisian Exodus To Italy

SFAX — Plastic bags litter the fields that separate the highway from the Mediterranean Sea. Tunisian fishermen sail their boats in the Gulf of Gabes, between the cities of Sfax and Zarzis — and just 120 kilometers from the Italian island of Lampedusa. Indeed, recently the fishermen's haul has begun to include migrants picked up from these shores, with 136 intercepted by the Italian government in one recent night.

That boat had almost reached the port of Porto Empedocle in southern Sicily, but the migrants were waiting in the dark to safely disembark and evade authorities. Their reasons became clear once they were processed at the local refugee hotspot, where all the migrants were identified as Tunisian nationals from the Sfax area. Italy and Tunisia have a repatriation agreement, and any Tunisian caught entering the country illegally is subject to deportation. Thirty of those 136 have already been given notice to leave the country within six days, but many of them are intent on continuing northward toward France.

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Geopolitics

After Arab Spring, Tunisian Police Brutality Is Back

TUNIS — Six years ago, the Tunisian Revolution sparked the Arab Spring uprisings and overthrew the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his notoriously violent police state. Now a nascent democracy, Tunisia is once again faced with the issue of police brutality. Tunis-based daily Le Temps reports that several local and international NGOs have recently criticized police tactics, which authorities say is necessary to contain terrorist activity in the North African country.

At a recent conference organized by the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID), activists argued that Tunisian police have carried out mass arbitrary arrests and used physical violence and torture in interrogations. New laws outlawing torture and providing defendants with lawyers have routinely gone ignored, and detainees are subject to long periods of detention without trial.

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