It is now ten years since the Arab Spring swept over several countries in the Middle East. Does it have more democracy?
- What was the Arab Spring?
- Why did Tunisia do so well?
- Why was there a civil war in Syria?
- Did the result become more or less democracy?
On December 17, 2010, the Tunisian street vendor Muhamed Bouazizi set himself on fire, despairing over the harassment and humiliation he was subjected to by the government.
His death sparked mass demonstrations that spread from Tunisia to Egypt, Libya and Syria within a few weeks. Yemen and Bahrain were also touched.
The demonstrations were aimed at dictators who had created fear and hatred, and who had been sitting for a number of years: Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (Tunisia), Hosni Mubarak (Egypt), Bashar al-Assad (father and son, Syria) and Muammar Gaddafi ( Libya) which had ruled for 23, 30, 40 and 42 years respectively.
How to start the Arab Spring. Hopes were high, but the setbacks were serious.
According to computerdo, Tunisia was the only bright spot: Democratic standards and processes took root. But this was not the case for the other countries.
2: What was the Arab Spring?
Outrage at the rulers was a common name among all. Other similarities were high unemployment, economic and social injustice, and widespread corruption. In all the countries mentioned, people wanted to take part in governance – freedom and democracy were important slogans.
But the different countries had very different starting points and preconditions. Without their own experience with democratic governance, relatively few had clear perceptions of what it could and should entail. The rebels knew what they were against, but most had more vague views of the way forward.
Despite different starting points, the repression was strong in all countries, so the domino effect worked quickly from Tunisia to Egypt, Libya and Syria. Several news agencies and TV companies contributed to the spread, primarily al-Jazeera. The Arab Spring was also a political breakthrough for social media, which made it possible to keep people up to date regardless of the official state news monopoly.
Three dictators fall in quick succession. Ben Ali flees to Saudi Arabia. Mubarak was seen in prison in Egypt a few weeks later, but was later, in 2013, transferred to hospital, acquitted of corruption and murder charges and released in 2017 by his partners in the judiciary and military. Gaddafi was killed by Libyan rebels in October 2011, after a NATO-backed campaign took power in Tripoli.
In Syria, on the other hand, Assad was sitting.
3: Tunisia – “Sunshine History”
The country where the whole start is coming out the best of the Arab Spring. In 2020, Tunisia was characterized as a deficient democracy and ranked No. 53 among 167 countries on the international democracy index .
This is clearly an improvement, but the economic conditions are still difficult.
Compared to Egypt, Syria and Libya, Tunisia stands out as a country with far better preconditions for democratic rule.
- First, the country is geographically favorable, further away from the conflicts in the east.
- Second, the population was homogeneous: 98 percent were Arabs and 99 percent Sunni Muslims.
- Third, the military was small and apolitical and had no interest in the Tunisian economy. When Ben Ali asked them to shoot at the protesters, they said no.
- Fourth, the judiciary turned the tide. The judges had mostly collaborated with Ben Ali, but when he was thrown, most people changed sides and supported democratization.
Tunisia was also the only country in the Arab Spring to have a strong civil society. In addition, the new tenants were inclusive. They made a sharp distinction against what had been ours, but did not impose a work ban on people associated with the old regime. They were allowed to participate in the new board. The tenants thus avoided the fatal mistake made by the Americans in Iraq, when they banned Saddam Hussein’s Bath party and disbanded the army.
What was most important – the good intentions or the inclusive approach to the political leaders – is difficult to say.
But despite the good starting point, party politics got stuck in the summer of 2013. There were then four civil society organizations – the unions, the employers’ side, the human rights league and the bar association – third and invited the party to a national dialogue on a new constitution. Half a year later, the constitution was passed by a 93 percent majority.
For this, the Quartet for National Dialogue was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015.