The International Dimension of Tunisia’s Success Story

US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter with Tunisian President Caid Essebsi at the Pentagon, 21 May 2015.

Tunisia’s transition process remains one of the few bright spots of the Arab Spring. While the transitions initiated in Egypt, Libya and Yemen have experienced numerous setbacks and repeated outbursts of violence, if not outright civil war, Tunisia appears to be well on its way to securing a genuine democratic space for itself. This view is shared, for example, by the latest Freedom in the World Report, which ranks Tunisia as the first ‘free’ country in North Africa since Freedom House began its worldwide assessments of political rights and civil liberties in 1972.

Although there is a fast-growing body of research that attempts to explain Tunisia’s comparatively smooth democratic transition, the Western media has not been as upbeat. Most analysts have focused on the challenges Tunisia faces, including the instability being generated by neighboring Libya and the broader Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. As a result, other important aspects of Tunisia’s external relations, particularly those that have had positive implications for its transition, have gone unnoticed.

Most importantly, Tunisia’s new political order appears to have benefitted substantially from the staunch support of those external actors who have the most leverage over the country. In contrast, those with a more critical attitude towards the transition have largely lacked the ability to influence the trajectory of the transition in less positive ways. These circumstances are far from accidental, by the way. They’re the consequence of the country’s history. » More

A Good Year (So Far) for Europe’s Separatists

The flags of Scotland and the United Kingdom. Image: The Laird of Oldham /Flickr

The European Union’s (EU) separatist movements have never had it so good. Faltering economic conditions, unpopular austerity measures and ‘out of touch’ governments have combined to reignite secessionism like never before. As a result, separatist fervour has never been so vocal – both in public and the national corridors of power. And there’s more to come. » More

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Will Tunisia’s Democracy Survive? A View from Political Demography

A Tunisian voter prepares to cast his ballot. Image: Freedomhouse/Flickr

This article was originally published by New Security Beat, a blog run by the Environmental Change and Security Program of the Wilson Center, on 12 May 2015.

Among the few bright spots in the 2015 Freedom in the World Report, the brightest may be Tunisia, which for the first time was assessed as “free” – Freedom House’s highest “freedom status” and for many political scientists the definitive indication of a liberal democracy. Tunisia is the only North African state to have been assessed as free since Freedom House began its worldwide assessment of political rights and civil liberties in 1972, and only the second Arab-majority state since Lebanon was rated free from 1974 to 1976.

Tunisians have had little time to celebrate. A deadly raid by jihadists on Tunis’ Bardo Museum on March 18 left 20 foreign tourists and 3 Tunisians dead and has led several analysts to warn that Tunisia’s fledgling democracy is at serious risk. » More

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After April Stalemate, Could Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement Rise Again?

Protesters in Hong Kong during the “Umbrella Revolution”. Image: Pasu Au Yeung/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 5 May 2015.

With Hong Kong’s April reform package to elect a new chief executive in 2017 falling far short of creating genuine universal suffrage, and doing little to bridge the region’s political divides, the battle between the government and pro-democracy supporters for hearts and minds has been revived. The “umbrella” movement that caught the world’s attention last year could therefore resurface in the coming weeks and months.

By strictly following an August 2014 decision made by China’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC), the April package angered pro-democracy members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council—the so-called “pan-democrats” who supported the street-based umbrella movement—who want to preserve the region’s autonomy as part of the “one country, two systems” model. » More

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Building a Viable Ukraine: Can the EU Deliver?

Image: Wanderherr/Wikimedia

It has been clear for some time that EU governments, and most of their publics, find the thought of extending military support to conflict-ridden Ukraine wholly unpalatable.  Debates regarding the pros and (mostly) cons of sending European military aid and European peacekeepers have run their course throughout European capitals without much enthusiasm.

Against this background another struggle has begun to receive the attention of pundits, and rightly so. It is the long and arduous battle for a viable Ukrainian state, one that is built on a functioning democracy, a competitive economy, and the rule of law. This vision entails a process that The Economist has aptly termed de-oligarchisation and—most importantly—the ultimate objective of countering corruption.  If this vision is to succeed, the EU and Ukraine will have to demonstrate that they are as committed to each other as they claim to be. » More

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