Tunisia: The Jasmine Revolution

By Ryan and Daniel Khalessi

TUNIS, TUNISIA- On January 14th, 2011, the following principle gained a greater sense of veracity: popular support is an unconditional prerequisite for an authoritarian regime to maintain the merest trace of legitimacy. Occurring only a few days ago, the Tunisian Jasmine Revolution perfectly embodied this principle. Without the use of an organized military coup, mass-scale acts of terror, or intervention from foreign powers, wide-ranging popular protests paved the way for the Tunisian people to oust an authoritarian leader who had been in power for the past twenty-four years. Though it is too soon to ascertain the prospects of a sustainable Tunisian democracy, the opportunity, at the very least, is well and alive.

Since his rise to power via a relatively non-violent coup d’etat in 1987, (now former) Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has continually consolidated power into his own hands. His administration has controlled elections stringently, intimidated independent journalists incessantly, and tortured dissidents brutally; his administration has prevented non-govermental organizations (NGO’s) from acting as third party monitors during Tunisia’s elections. And finally, his administration has failed to give up power, essentially maintaining its stranglehold over the Tunisian people for five consecutive presidential terms. Consequently, Freedom house has designated his administration as a clear example of an authoritarian government.

To be fair, however, Ben Ali declared that he would deviate from his tradition of holding onto power by not seeking the presidency for yet another term in the 2014 election. In spite of his promise to eventually forsake power, Tunisian protesters congregated in the capital city of Tunis and demanded Ben Ali’s immediate resignation from the presidency. As a result, Ben Ali fled Tunisia and sought haven elsewhere; he is currently residing in Saudi Arabia while the nation he once possessed absolute control over is gradually choosing its own path toward the future. Hopefully it’s a path toward rule of law, democracy, and self-determination.

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