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18 mars 2011 5 18 /03 /mars /2011 08:37

CSID Banner in Arabic 1
CSID Panel Discussion:

Roadmap of Political Reforms in Tunisia

CSID Debate on Political Reforms in Tunisia - 1

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cite de la Science - Tunis - Tunisia

For a month and a half since the famous popular uprisings that led to the Arab World's first democratic revolution, Tunisia had been struggling to identify and implement the necessary structural and ideological changes that are essential for the budding democratic system. Tunisians all over the country had been patiently waiting to see what the interim government and the opposition leaders would bring to the table, and for a month and a half they got little more than flowery rhetoric praising the revolution and those who gave their lives for a democratic Tunisia. This was not enough; what was absolutely imperative was a frank discussion of practical steps toward democratization, and for representatives of the interim government, opposition parties, and prominent civil society actors to engage publicly with citizens on this front.

CSID Debate on Political Reforms in Tunisia - 5To create a vibrant and constructive dialogue on necessary political reforms, the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) organized a public forum event on Thursday, February 24, 2011, with 4 panelists of extremely high calibre and influence in the Tunisian political landscape, to speak directly and candidly with Tunisian citizens about their contributions, enacted and intended, on the road to democracy. The speakers were: Yadh ben Achour, Chair of the Interim Commission for Political Reforms, Hamadi Jebali, Official Spokesperson of al-Nahda Party, Mouldi Riyahi, Representative of the Democratic Forum for Work and Liberties, and Hamoudi ben Slema, renowned political scientist and civic activist.

n the first segment of the public forum, each panelist was granted 10 minutes to give a comprehensive assessment of the pace of political reforms in Tunisia, and the direction in which they ought to be going. Dr. Radwan Masmoudi, President of CSID, delivered the opening and welcoming remarks, in which he affirmed the need for public discourse and frank discussion on the direction of the political evolution taking place in Tunisia, and the need for lay citizens and activists alike to remain active in the political sphere.

Iadh Ben AchourYadh ben Achour was then given the floor to address his perspective on current and future Tunisian politics. He spoke about the miracle that was the Tunisian Revolution. He insisted, though the revolution was certainly a thing to be cherished and honored, that Tunisia was in its first stages of democratization, and that a truly democratic foundation must be put in place in order for future steps toward democracy to be secured. He echoed the need for all citizens to remain engaged and attentive to the changing policies of the government, and for the calls for freedom, human dignity, and essential liberties to continue.

Mouldi ReyahiSecond to speak was Mouldi Riyahi, who focused his address on the duties and responsibilities of all Tunisians to take their futures in their own hands and no longer entrust the government without due scrutiny and accountability. He spoke about the history of the Tunisian people, and how they had always been a people of dignity and humanity, and that they deserve, and must continue to demand, a representative and democratic government that works for its people, and not against them.

Hamadi JebaliHamadi Jebali delivered the third presentation, and spoke directly to the audience and the broader Tunisian citizenry about the political void that has sprung up after the deposition of the dictator and the dissolution of the ruling political party, the Constitutional Democratic Assembly (RCD). He addressed the role that al-Nahda party would like to play in the period of political and social reforms in which Tunisian presently finds itself, which is to serve as a vehicle through which the principles of the Tunisian society are manifested and therefore implemented.

Hamouda Ben SlamaHamouda ben Slama was the final panelist to speak, and was perfectly positioned to give an objective, scientific analysis of not only the manner and content of the other panelist's comments, but also on the broader political fabric, past, present, and future. He was also the only speaker to speak at length about the role of the Tunisian youth both in driving the revolution and in building the new democracy, remarks which were greeted with applause from the audience of mostly young people.

After the panelists delivered their remarks, it was time for the 'Question & Answer" segment of the event, which was incontrovertibly the most interesting, heated, and engaging portion of the afternoon. The questions, which normally were to be no longer than 2 minutes in length, became personal commentary, ranging from specific responses to the panelists' remarks to general assessments of Tunisian politics. It was a sight to behold, and illustrated very vividly the need for these sorts of events in post-revolutionary Tunisia. It was clear that the audience thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to engage so directly and unabashedly with such important political personalities, and took full advantage of their time at the microphone.

During the Q&A period, Mr. Iadh Ben Achour spoke again and affirmed his total commitment to the idea of a "constitutional assembly" to be elected by the people. The audience, which has pushed him so hard to take a position on this question, was delighted to hear him make this commitment for the first time in public. The whole audience, of almost 300 people, stood up and cheered Mr. Ben Achour, when he made this promise

This was precisely the reaction which CSID had hoped for, which was to encourage Tunisian citizens to ask, demand, listen, discuss, and plan their futures, and never again to allow political life to be overtaken by an elite, authoritarian few. Undoubtedly, this public forum will be the first of many that all aim to maintain a spirit of civic duty, transparency, accountability, and respectful discourse, all on the path of true democratization. In order to secure a smooth and swift transition to democracy in Tunisia, CSID will undertake to organize similar discussions and "national dialogue meetings and conferences" throughout the country over the next 6-12 months.

Watch Videos of the Event (in Arabic):


1st Presentation - Yadh Ben Achour

2nd Presentation - Mouldi Reyahi  

3rd Presentation - Hamadi Jebali 

4th Presentation - Hamouda Ben Slama  

Q & A - and Answers from Yadh Ben Achour 

CSID Debate on Political Reforms in Tunisia - 2

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Stanley Lucas 03/04/2011 17:07

Post-Revolutions in Northern Africa and the Middle East:  Fostering a Successful Democratic

by Stanley Lucas*


Fostering democracy and economic development in countries that have been under a dictatorship for decades is a complex and challenging task that requires a clear vision and investment by the
transition government and the support of the international community. After the dictator has gone, citizens who rose up against oppression and corruption are confronted with two scenarios: a
slow, tough road to democracy and economic development, or permanent instability marked by political infighting and power struggles. The latter scenario can lead to an even worse situation where
the victims of the regime morph into the new oppressors. We often hear political commentators discuss the uncertainty and risk posed by unknown leadership assuming power post-dictatorships, and
whether or not the alternative will be any better. International technical assistance and a strong commitment by the interim government to giving political, economic and civil society leaders the
tools and expertise to deal with the new challenges of building democratic institutions and breaking from old patterns and systems can help minimize the risk and shape a stable government. For
these transition societies, gaining access to the know-how, through the transfer of knowledge and the sharing of experiences will foster democratic institutions and sustainable stability.


The Success and Failure of Transitions around the World

Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Bahrain, Iran, Yemen, Syria, and Libya are experiencing today what countries in Latin American and the Caribbean -- and Eastern Europe and Russia -- experienced in the
1980s. In Latin America, 18 dictatorships fell in large part as a result of Presidents Carter and Reagan’s efforts to promote democratic values in the region. Thirty years later, some of these
countries are succeeding in their transitions and some are not.


Brazil is a clear success story. With extraordinary economic growth, the country is poised to be a global economic leader under a stable government. Chile overcame one of the most brutal
dictators, Augusto Pinochet, and now experiences successful power transitions, economic growth and rule of law. They recovered quickly from a serious earthquake in 2010 immediately after their
new president took power. Colombia faced down brutal drug cartels and corruption and has led a successful transition to a legitimate economy by investing heavily in education and engaging with
the international community, including pursuing a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States. El Salvador emerged from civil war and now holds successful elections, stable power
transitions and is experiencing economic growth. The Dominican Republic emerged from decades under a dictatorship to become one of the few countries in the Caribbean with strong economic growth,
partly achieved by participating in the regional CAFTA agreement and increasing exports.


Many countries have failed. Nicaragua, the second poorest country of the Western Hemisphere, remains mired in corruption and rigged elections and has no viable democratic opposition. In
Venezuela, free and fair elections produced a dictator. The country has no media freedom, and despite having oil resources, economic development has stalled. In Haiti, the poorest country of the
Western Hemisphere, rigged elections have produced dictators and corrupt leaders who have allowed a small group of elites to maintain a strangle hold on the country’s economy while keeping the
meager resources for themselves and leaving the rest of the country mired in endemic poverty.


And other countries are struggling against backtracking. A succession of governments involved in corruption has undermined democratic gains in Argentina. In Ecuador and Peru bad governance mixed
with uncertain economic policies and the battle to modernize the political culture have stalled progress.


The Middle East and North Africa have unique considerations from Latin America, such as the primacy of Islam and the threat of terrorism. However, there are many directly relevant lessons learned
from Latin American transitions. Where transition failed, a similar pattern emerged. Political parties and new leaders were not ready to lead. Civil society organizations only knew how to
protest, and never rose to meet their responsibilities to constructively participate in building the new system. No viable leadership was able to fill the power vacuum, and in that power vacuum,
radical elements emerged and hijacked the transition process with constant power struggles. The country descends into complete chaos. The military fractured and the political institutions were
weakened. The leadership vacuum also led to a free-for-all economic environment allowing elite business cartels to monopolize segments of the economy, such as ports, telecoms, oil production, and
banking. In some cases, the business cartels also controlled the illicit economy operating crime syndicates, such as narco-trafficking. Foreign profiteers sought partnerships with the corrupt
business cartels to capitalize on the rigged environment and aligned with the ruling regime lending international support to the networks. The elite economic group put in place government leaders
who were complicit in – or architects of – the corruption and kept the state weak. These failed transition countries are among the poorest, most corrupt and unstable countries in the world
presenting a constant risk to regional and global security.


Elements of a Successful Transition Strategy

There are common threads that run through the success stories, which can be valuable lessons learned for transitioning countries. Again, the Middle East and North African region has unique
considerations, but these lessons learned provide the foundation for a transition strategy that can be customized to meet the needs of a particular country.


After the people topple a dictatorship, military or civilian leaders – and sometimes both – typically form the interim government. The interim government serves as the entry point for democracy
and will need to develop the overall framework to guide the transition process, specifically by framing a new constitution or revising the current one, organizing elections, managing foreign
cooperation, and institutionalizing government relations with the rest of society. Although the interim government is the lead, democracy assistance – both domestic and international – should be
targeted to all key sectors of society. Political parties will need the tools to develop political platforms that offer society a unique vision, competent candidates, leadership, and, most
importantly, a political choice. Civil society, after having been all but eradicated under dictatorships, will need to learn to organize themselves into interests groups and effectively advocate
their priorities on behalf of their constituents. The private sector, as the economic engine of the country, will need to understand how to engage political leadership to advocate on behalf of
their industries and participate in the building of an open economy. The police and military will need assistance on how to operate under the new realities of the democratic principles and the
rule of law. And finally, a robust civic education program, including media training, must overlay the entire process so the public fully understands what changes are taking place and the process
is viewed as being transparent, collaborative and responsive throughout. Where efforts have been aimed at solely revising the constitution or organizing the government, these other interest
groups have felt marginalized from the process and become a source of instability.


In addition to providing technical tools to these sectors of society, it is also critical to bring them all into the process so they have a voice in shaping the new government. This requires
adept leadership that is able to balance consensus building with critical and timely decision making.


The entire transition process must be owned and led by nationals with a good understanding of how to make the process inclusive and responsive to the people of the country, and how to engage
international resources and expertise where needed. They are the only ones who can decide their country’s path. They must lead the international community, rather than follow directives. In his
Nine Principles of Development Assistance, Andrew Natsios, former director of US AID under President Clinton, wrote that assistance organizations “cannot replace the client”,

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