Tunisia, heart of the Arab spring, delays municipal elections until 2018

Tunisia, heart of the Arab spring, delays municipal elections until 2018

Tunisian municipal elections, originally scheduled for today, have been postponed to March 2018. The North-African country—where the Arab Spring started—has become the standard-bearer for liberal democracy in the Middle East. Since the 24-year dictatorship of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was overthrown in 2011, constitutional reforms have codified freedom of speech and religion into law.

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Photo: AFP

Tunisian municipal elections, originally scheduled for today, have been postponed to March 2018.

The North-African country—where the Arab Spring started—has become the standard-bearer for liberal democracy in the Middle East. Since the 24-year dictatorship of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was overthrown in 2011, constitutional reforms have codified freedom of speech and religion into law. 100 political parties now contest regular national elections after the first democratic elections were held in 2014.

The future outlook for democracy really depends upon the ability to peacefully reconcile the past with the present. Current PM Youssef Chahed, supported by President Essebsi, has appointed Ben Ali’s former ministers to cabinet, adopted laws to excuse past corruption under the Ben Ali regime, and, now, postponed municipal elections. These moves have alarmed reformists.

How Tunisia responds to these moves will be the first real test of the democratic institutions it has built. However, it is likely that the secular constitution will survive these potential ructions.

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