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Tunisian Spring
Former Regime Figure Wins Tunisian Presidency

Beji Caid Sebsi, a former Prime Minister under Ben Ali, has claimed victory in Tunisia’s presidential run-off. As the Financial Times reports:

Tunisia’s electoral commission announced that Mr Sebsi, 88, had secured more than 55.68 per cent of the vote in Sunday’s run-off poll.

Moncef Marzouki, his rival, who has served as interim president since 2011, received just over 44 per cent.

The election is a milestone in Tunisia’s democratic transformation, which started with the 2011 revolution that led to the deposing of Zein al-Abidine Ben Ali and sparked a string of uprisings across the Arab world.

But while democratic transitions in other Arab countries have foundered, not least in Libya and Egypt, that of Tunisia is seen as a success story.

Mr Sebsi’s win consolidates the dominance of secular forces in Tunisia’s elected institutions. His Nida Tunis party beat Nahda, the main Islamist grouping, to emerge with the largest bloc of seats, though not a majority, in the parliament elected in October.

Tunisia’s primary Islamist party and Muslim Brotherhood affiliate, Ennahda, did not contest the presidency, perhaps fearing it would share the fate of Mohamed Morsi and the Brotherhood in Egypt. The victory of Sebsi will be a setback for more revolutionary liberals, given his connections with the old regime. Nonetheless, a successful democratic transition in a revolutionary country marks Tunisia as the only success story of the Arab spring. Let’s hope it’s the first of many: One way or another, at 88 years old, Sebsi won’t be holding onto power for long.

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  • Corlyss

    Actually this is not as surprising as it might seem, given the turmoil in the region. In Robert Kaplan’s 2000 lecture at Ft. Leavenworth, he used Tunisia as a perfect example of an enlightened despotism which, while not democratic in our sense of the word, spent decades building up the social infrastructure required to support a democracy, including civil service, middle class, stable governmental institution, respect for minority rights, rule of law, etc. All the elements that must be in place before a democracy can take root and thrive. I am relieved to see that the Islamist fever didn’t last long in Tunisia. It bears watching, for its uniqueness if nothing else.

  • FriendlyGoat

    I’m glad they are not in turmoil and I’m aware Tunisia is better at this than all the others, so far. Still, it’s a little disappointing to see an old crony of the one deposed start winning again. What do the people get here?

  • rheddles

    Let’s hope it’s the first of many

    Sort of like a remarriage; the triumph of hope over experience.

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