Fledgling democracy could survive crisis in Islamist-led Tunisia

August 29, 2013

(Anti-government protesters hold flares and shout slogans during a demonstration in Tunis August 24, 2013. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi.)

Tunisia, birthplace of the Arab uprisings of 2011, is locked in a standoff between its Islamist-led government and secular opposition that could be decisive for the success of its experiment in democracy.

The small North African nation could still make this work, if its political class can rise above party rivalries to follow a road map to the rule of law laid out in 2011, analysts say.

Optimism has waxed and waned over the past week as the central figure of Tunisian politics, Islamist leader Rached Ghannouchi, offered to consider a deal for new elections that could produce an orderly transfer of power to the opposition.

The ensuing squabbling in his Ennahda party and in the opposition, which responded by demanding the Ennahda-led government’s immediate resignation, dampened the initial hopes his offer had stirred. Then upbeat comments by main opposition leader Beji Caid Essebsi brightened prospects again.

“Tunisia risks a lot in this crisis but it is not going to collapse,” said political analyst Jamel Arfoui. “It will continue its transition because Ghannouchi is trying to find solutions to avoid an Egyptian scenario.”

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