Tunisia was the first answer to the question “for how long?” Everyone was witnessing the manifestations of injustice and corruption with a fit of hidden anger, until the Jasmine Revolution came to light, followed by several after-effects that created a long-awaited Arab spring. But, was Tunisia the only answer to all the tests to which these differently-addressed movements have been subjected? Of course, no. Every movement has provided a response to a different question in an interlocking series of entirely new problems that deviated from the content of all the old revolutionary approaches, and needed pragmatic minds, generosity, unprecedented courage and calculated risk-taking. Each specific answer in a particular revolution stipulated a different response in another. Thus, opponents of worn-out regimes presented a highly intelligent, sophisticated and varied scene.
In light of the setbacks of the Arab Spring revolutions, the revolutionary elite in the Arab region wanted to depict the Tunisian Revolution as a victorious experience and make it look that it was able to establish a democratic regime based on the principle of the transfer of power. I excuse those who have believed in this beautiful illusion. The Arabs, especially whose revolutions have been suppressed, hope that any Arab country will succeed in weaving for them strings of hope that would bind them to a future they want with all their being. However, I think this is a very premature judgment. The democratic experiences’ success or failure can only be assessed after testing the army, and the military of Tunisia has not yet been tested.
In a minimal comparison between the elections of Egypt and Tunisia after the end of the transitional period, 26 persons submitted their candidacies for the presidential elections in Egypt in 2012. Thirteen of them were selected by the Egyptian National Elections Authority, including one candidate by Egypt’s largest party, the Freedom and Justice Party. In Tunisia, 70 persons submitted their candidacies for the presidential elections, 27 of them were selected by the Tunisian Independent High Authority for Elections in 2014, with the old regime being represented by seven personalities, and the rest were a majority of independent individuals along with representatives of parties. The country’s largest party, the Islamist Ennahda Party, has given its members the freedom to choose who will lead the revolutionary path and achieve democracy among the candidates.
Read: Thank you, Tunisia
It is no secret that the timing of Tunisia’s elections came at a critical time in the course of the Arab Spring revolutions. They started after the outbreak of the military coup in Egypt against its democratically elected president, the arrest of its first-rank personalities, and even their stigmatisation with terrorism, along with what happened in Syria, Yemen and Libya. The Tunisian Ennahda Movement wanted to avoid this fate, or, as it thought. It, therefore, did not present a presidential candidate, to maintain its moderate image accepted by the Tunisian public opinion.
In the elections of the two countries (Egypt and Tunisia), which were described as transparent, democratic and fair, the old regime of the deep state presented its candidate; in Egypt, Ahmed Shafik, and in Tunisia, Beji Caid Essebsi.
Ahmed Shafik was the minister of civil aviation during the rule of ousted president Mubarak, then the last prime minister of Egypt before the revolution. As for Essebsi, he was an adviser to President Habib Bourguiba, then his minister of interior. These elections were aimed at not giving the legacy of the military family, in its form or content, to a civilian outsider representing the people. Therefore, we find that specific candidates have been excluded, and then other candidates have been eliminated in the first round of the elections, ending up in a run-off between two candidates in the second round of elections; one candidate for the deep state, and another representing the revolution.
In Egypt, after a strenuous effort, the representative of the revolution won, and this was blessed by the military, the third and the submerged party, which sparked the revolution, and which was a compassionate undercover side that would not confront Mubarak’s military republic face to face. It remained patient until a legitimate, honest civilian from the people won the presidency. This party wanted a legitimate representative, to turn against him after a year and to appear in the scene after three years of hiding behind the scenes in a tender and innocent image, but with its bloody greed drooling for power, showing up as reluctant while it is greedy. In Tunisia, Essebsi, the representative of the deep state, defeated the affectionate person towards Tunisia, who has not found his chance to appear yet.
In my view, one of the worst consequences of the Arab Spring revolutions is the result of the Tunisian revolution at the time. The occurrence of a coup under the slogan of democracy is confusing. For a rebellious state to return the symbol of an obsolete regime to the forefront of its revolutionary scene is in itself a flaw. For a people who think they have succeeded, made accomplishments and transformed from an era of injustice to a period of freedom through a mediator who was an adviser to a former dictator, this is a disappointment. I am not saying here that Egypt’s experience is better or that Tunisia’s experience is worse. I believe that everyone has been striving for salvation; each has aimed per the reality of its time and place. Perhaps Egypt would have reached the same situation if Ahmed Shafik had won, and this would have been inevitable.
What is delightful today, is that, having returned to the first moments of choosing between the past and what is to come, the tender Tunisia stood at the gates of the Jasmine Revolution as it was four years ago, and fought again to achieve a democratic victory, as Egypt won before, with a president representing the revolution; to answer after Egypt the question (Can we?).
Congratulations to Tunisia and all the Arab Spring countries for their success; and may this pure country be cautious, as its revolution is not over yet.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.