Wednesday, 12 January 2011

"...conspicuously muted responses in the United States & the EU..."

Via Friday-Lunch-Club

Oxford Analytica: Excerpts:

"... Tunisia's carefully nurtured image of a stable, orderly and mildly prosperous North African country was shaken by the eruption of widespread protests on December 17, which have continued into their fourth week with persisting intensity despite the initial conciliatory tone of the government. The riots were sparked by the desperate act of an unemployed 26-year-old university graduate who, having had his fruit and vegetable cart confiscated by local authorities, attempted to commit suicide by setting himself alight. Mohamed Bouazizi died from his wounds on January 4 and inspired nation-wide indignation, as well as other dramatic acts of suicidal protest. In the space of three weeks, the protests had spread to more than a dozen towns and cities, including the capital Tunis. Opposition parties, trade unions and various civil society activists (lawyers, teachers and journalists) offered their support to and joined in with the young protesters. Over the weekend, the unrest took a dramatic turn. Clashes with police resulted in 14 protesters being killed by gunfire, according to official figures (opposition and human rights groups put the number higher). The army has been deployed to the most troubled areas in the centre and west of the country. A small explosion also occurred at the Tunisian consulate in a Paris suburb, though no one has yet claimed responsibility. In the absence of international media presence, reports on the events in Tunisia have heavily relied on internet blogging and online social-media feeds. The confrontation between the government and protesters has extended to the internet ...

Since 1987, current President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's rule has relied on an implicit bargain with the population which meant authoritarian stability was the price Tunisians paid for tourism, foreign investment and jobs. Somewhat vindicated by the unrest that plagued neighbouring Algeria in the 1990s, Ben Ali's political approach has been very effective at driving opposition parties deep underground or into exile. For a long time, the tight grip maintained by this policies was tolerated, even hailed as an example, at home and abroad. 
However, over the last few years, the fabric of Ben Ali's model began to fray:
  • The waning of the Islamist threat, the increasingly open and tactless brutality of the regime, and widespread stories of corruption, especially within the president's entourage, led to the growing questioning of the status quo by many Tunisians.
  • The recent re-election of Ben Ali -- who is 74 -- to a fifth term, the continued domination of parliament by his Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) party, and his rumoured plans to run for another five-year term in 2014 have all contributed to the growing frustration among young Tunisians, who represent 65% of the population.
Perhaps most importantly, Tunisia's economic development model seems to have failed to provide sufficient and adequate job opportunities for the many yearly new entrants into the job market. At 14%, the official unemployment rate in Tunisia is among the highest in the region. Opposition groups estimate that up to 30-35% of youth, especially those with a university degree, are unemployed. This is due to the fact that:
  • Tunisia's growth model suffers from excessive specialisation and overdependence on one market, the EU (70% of trade);
  • the liberalisation of the economy has not benefited the young and the disadvantaged owing to endemic corruption, favouritism and lack of the rule of law....

Region-wide malaise. Tunisia is not the only Arab country that has seen widespread anti-government protests recently. Riots have erupted in Jordan, Egypt and Algeria in what seems to be an increasingly conspicuous wave of popular discontent with incumbent regimes.  Algeria in particular, where localised riots have been a more common feature of the socio-political landscape over the last five years, was engulfed on January 5 by a massive wave of protests that spread to 20 cities and lasted four days.... Although the protests seemed to have quietened down as soon as the government reversed those measures and announced a temporary suspension of tax on staple goods, there can be little doubt that the price increases -- just like the desperate act of Bouazizi, the New Year church bombing and police brutality in Egypt were simply triggers for wider, long-accumulated discontent. Ultimately, it is the absence of credible political institutions capable of ensuring both adequate representation of society and good governance that is pushing young Arabs to revolt against their decaying living conditions. 
Western reactions. The events in North Africa have met with conspicuously muted responses in the United States and the EU, at least at the beginning. It was not until arrests of protesters began on a large scale that Washington began to express concern last week, and a response from Brussels, Paris and the UN came only after the violence of clashes between rioters and government forces escalated dramatically over the first weekend in January. Western governments are wary of undermining incumbent regimes, but it appears that the recent developments may have shaken the long-standing, unspoken preference of outside actors for stability over political change in these countries.  The riots in Tunisia do not appear to be running out of momentum despite government concessions and violence. Without explicit pressure from the international community, the regime in Tunis is most likely to survive the uprising -- though it will come out of it seriously shaken vis-a-vis both domestic opposition and international partners. With the EU notably, it risks losing support for its achievement of 'advanced status'.  In the meantime, the revolt will have encouraged the Tunisian opposition to join forces and emboldened its demands for political change. The absence of credible and charismatic opposition leaders across North Africa is the main insurance policy of incumbent regimes for now. Yet the ongoing events will serve as a stark warning to the region's ageing leaders and could force them to reconsider their plans for hereditary succession. .."
Posted by G, Z, or B at 12:18 PM

Tunisian dictator

I knew that this was coming.  In his last speech, the Tunisian dictator spoke about a terrorist conspiracy behind the demonstrations in Tunisia.  Now, you can expect immediate US military aid.  And did you notice the silence, timidity, and politeness from US and EU countries regarding repression in Tunisia and Algeria and Egypt?

Posted by As'ad at 8:02 AM
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian

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