ISIM | Sat, Feb 13, 2021
by Gary Kleiman
Ten years ago tiny Tunisia with its “jasmine revolution,” sending longtime authoritarian President Ben Ali, into exile was the first in the region to spark economic and political changes under the sweeping Arab Spring umbrella. Unlike neighbors Egypt, Jordan and Morocco it had a relatively vibrant post-independence constitution-based record of democratic participation and social rights, most notably in women’s equality, which has translated into regular all-too-frequent elections with successive coalitions drawn from Islamic, secular and labor union-based parties. Another prime minister was appointed from late last year after compromise among these feuding groups, with a dozen cabinet ministers reshuffled just before the decade anniversary that sparked nationwide bloody protests again over income stagnation and 35% youth unemployment in particular. The damaging effects are clear on Europe’s shores, where 13,000 Tunisian emigrants crossed the Mediterranean last year, one-fifth of total arrivals through that route and a four-fold increase from 2019.