Monica Marks

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On Monday, Tunisians have been going to the polls to vote on a new constitution proposed by President Kais Saied. At stake is nothing less than the fate of the Arab world’s most promising experiment in democratic governance. If Saied gets his way, Tunisia could send an ominous signal to the rest of the Middle East and North Africa, where despotic rulers remain entrenched.

In 2011, a popular uprising in Tunisia sparked by a young fruit vendor’s suicide overthrew the dictatorship of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who had ruled for 23 years. The events in Tunisia triggered a wave of similar revolutions across the Middle East and North Africa, an upheaval that came to be known as the Arab Spring.…  Seguir leyendo »

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi at Carthage Palace in Tunis in 2016. (Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images)

This past weekend, Tunisians protested parliament’s decision to reconsider a controversial law offering conditional amnesty to corrupt business executives and old regime officials. President Beji Caid Essebsi introduced the law — now in its third draft — in 2015 as a way to reintegrate businesspeople sidelined by the revolution. Civil society leaders want to bury the bill, but it has reappeared, haunting post-revolutionary progress toward transparency and accountability.

Many Tunisians are dismayed that the country’s largest party, Ennahda, hasn’t done more to scuttle the bill. Before the revolution, Ennahda’s supporters were blacklisted from employment, jailed by the tens of thousands, tortured, raped and forced into exile.…  Seguir leyendo »

Tiny Tunisia, where a fruit seller’s suicide sparked the Arab Spring, held its first free elections on Sunday. Over 90 percent of registered voters turned out, far exceeding expectations. Lines of beaming blue-fingered voters poured out of polling places, proudly posting photos of their freshly inked hands on Facebook.

Yet despite Tunisia’s election day success story, many observers fear that democracy could unleash an Islamist tidal wave. The Islamist party Ennahda, banned as a terrorist group under the dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, won approximately 40 percent of votes — a resounding plurality.

A small but increasingly vocal minority of secular Tunisians are predicting that an Islamist-dominated national assembly will reverse key pieces of civil rights legislation, including those recognizing the right to abortion and prohibiting polygamy.…  Seguir leyendo »