Defaced poster of former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
Tunisia – on the road to democracy
The revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East which began with such high expectations, have been followed by democratically elected governments being overthrown, breakdowns in public order and in the case of Syria sustained bloody slaughter.
The news from Tunisia is therefore particularly heartening. Faced with the same sort of deep division within society as found in Egypt, rather than resorting to arms the parties resorted to dialogue. The fruits of which can be seen in the recent overwhelming approval of the final articles of the country’s new Constitution by Tunisia’s National Assembly. The constitution guarantees freedom of association, the right to strike, gender equality and women’s protection against violence. The gender equality section will mean, amongst other changes, that the government will have to create parity for women in all legislative assemblies in Tunisia.
The constitution also commits Tunisia to a secular state whilst ensuring freedom of worship – issues which had caused considerable division.
Key in the talks which have brought about this rapprochement, has been Tunisia’s largest trade union centre, the UGTT. Treated as an honest broker and with the necessary negotiating skills, they have been able to nudge the parties forward. The resulting outcome will hopefully not only benefit the people of Tunisia but also provide inspiration for others in the region.