The United States will give Tunisia $60 million worth of military aid to help it fight Islamist militants who are threatening the country’s nascent democracy, Reuters reports
Protests in Tunisia in 2010 sparked subsequent revolutions that have transformed the Arab world and in many ways it is more stable and secure than other Arab Spring countries such as Libya, Egypt and Syria. But it is facing a militant threat of its own, mostly due to attacks mounted by the al Qaeda offshoot Ansar al-Sharia and to a flow of fighters and weapons unleashed by other conflicts in the region.
Demand for Democratic Dividends
Five months after the landmark passage of Tunisia’s constitution, and with historic elections expected in October and November of this year, a new International Republican Institute poll finds Tunisia once again at a crossroads in its democratic transition:
Since February 2014, unfulfilled expectations and the slow pace of economic growth have contributed to a 19 point increase (from 48 percent to 67 percent) in the percentage of people who think Tunisia is headed in the wrong direction. Although reason for concern, this number is still better than the levels throughout 2013 when between 77 and 79 percent of respondents believed Tunisia to be headed in the wrong direction.
When asked about their highest priorities, Tunisians are unsatisfied with their government’s pace of progress on the economy and employment. Fifty-eight percent of respondents described the current economic situation in Tunisia as very bad, and a further 22 percent said somewhat bad.
But not all the news is bad for Tunisia’s leaders. Despite the growing frustration, 67 percent said the security situation has improved over the last year. Overall, when asked if they were satisfied with the current government’s performance, 60 percent expressed at least some satisfaction. This is down from 74 percent in February, but is still a strong majority and an indicator that people remain hopeful.
“Democracy does not lead to overnight prosperity, and Tunisians are coming to terms with this reality,” said Scott Mastic, IRI’s director for Middle East and North Africa programs. “Yet the public’s commitment to democracy is evident in the face of mounting regional challenges. Effective democratic governance is the ultimate path to long-term stability in Tunisia and those who want to see the country succeed must provide the tools of support needed now more than ever.”
Tunisia has a tremendous opportunity to provide a sound political and economic system that not only is for the benefit of Tunisians but reflects a greater possibility for the broader region. The U.S. has a shared interest with Tunisia in making its “start-up democracy” really take off, analyst Charlotte Florance writes for The Daily Signal (HT: FPI).