Nobel Prize

Nobel Peace Prize: In Tunisia Alone Is the "Arab Spring" Still Green

Here's hoping that the award will help safeguard Tunisia's nascent democracy.


Nobel Committee

Some years ago, I predicted that the Arab Spring drive to create democratic regimes in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and Syria would fail. My conclusion was based on evidence from political science studies. In particular, I noted:

The auguries of political science strongly predict that the Arab Spring rebellions will succumb to new autocrats in the near term….

[Why?] Because, broadly speaking, data on the arcs of post–World War II revolutions suggests that their chances of successfully transitioning from autocracy to democracy are less than 50/50.

That dispiriting appraisal is based on a new data set, compiled by the UCLA political scientist Barbara Geddes and her colleagues, that provides transition information for the 280 autocratic regimes (in 110 countries with a population of more than a million) in existence from 1946 to 2010. More than half of the time, one autocrat has been followed by another. The odds of transitioning from autocracy to democracy are even worse for personalist dictatorships and one-party states, although military dictatorships make the transition about two-thirds of the time. A personalist dictator is a ruler who basically runs the state as a family business. As it happens, all of the regimes in which Arab Spring revolutions were successful were more or less personalist dictatorships: Muammar Qaddafi in Libya, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen, and Bashar Hafez al-Assad in Syria.

And so my predictions have so far proved all too sadly true, except in the case of Tunisia.

I am happy to report that today the Nobel Prize committee anncounced that it is awarding this year's Peace Prize to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet. In the Quartet came together in the wake of a series of political assasinations and growing civil unrest that was destabilizing efforts to create a constitutional and democratic government. The Quartet has comprised of the Tunisian General Labour Union, the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, the Tunisian Human Rights League, and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers.

The result of these efforts was the election of a secular-Islamist coalition government earlier this year.

From the Nobel Committee's press release:

The course that events have taken in Tunisia since the fall of the authoritarian Ben Ali regime in January 2011 is unique and remarkable for several reasons. Firstly, it shows that Islamist and secular political movements can work together to achieve significant results in the country's best interests. The example of Tunisia thus underscores the value of dialogue and a sense of national belonging in a region marked by conflict. Secondly, the transition in Tunisia shows that civil society institutions and organizations can play a crucial role in a country's democratization, and that such a process, even under difficult circumstances, can lead to free elections and the peaceful transfer of power. The National Dialogue Quartet must be given much of the credit for this achievement and for ensuring that the benefits of the Jasmine Revolution have not been lost.

Tunisia faces significant political, economic and security challenges. The Norwegian Nobel Committee hopes that this year's prize will contribute towards safeguarding democracy in Tunisia and be an inspiration to all those who seek to promote peace and democracy in the Middle East, North Africa and the rest of the world. More than anything, the prize is intended as an encouragement to the Tunisian people, who despite major challenges have laid the groundwork for a national fraternity which the Committee hopes will serve as an example to be followed by other countries.

Hearty congratulations to the Quartet. Holding elections is much easier than inculcating liberal democratic values, but surely we all join the Nobel Committee in hoping that year's prize will contribute towards safeguarding Tunisia's nascent democracy.

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  1. Al Jazeera America retweeted and favorited my note some time back, “So – how’s that ‘Arab Spring’ working out for everyone?'”

    I forgot how many tens of thousands of deaths we were into at that time.

    What a fucking travesty that region of the world is, and my God have mercy on their souls. Or not – not my call, I guess.

    1. Oh, and not to totally be Debbie Downer, I join Ronald in congratulating Tunisia on being a bit of an exception. Hopefully they can continue down the better path – may others join them and stop the madness.

      However, I’ll not hold my breath….

  2. “One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes a revolution in order to establish a dictatorship.”

    George Orwell

    1. British journalist living in Tunisia stated that the Islamic Tendency was “the single most threatening opposition force in Tunis. One word from the fundamentalists will close down the campus or start a demonstration.” The group, or members of it, were also responsible for the bombing of some tourist hotels in the 1980s.

      Those moderate Islamists sound like an absolute delight.

      Prominent Members[…] Boujemaa Remili, former leader of the Tunisian Communist Party

      And yet another lovable bunch in the secularist set, it seems.

  3. “Secular-Islamist coalition”

    “Satanist-Christian unified front”

    “Communist-Capitalist cooperative”

    1. It makes more sense if you term it “Socialist-Islamist coalition” because that’s what it is and we’ve seen that species of animal before.

      1. That being the case, not sure why the leadership of the movement is entitled to anything other than a quick spray of liberatory gunfire from people who celebrate the cause of peace.

  4. Here’s hoping that the award will help safeguard Tunisia’s nascent democracy.

    What? Does it have magical powers?

    Ali, I know we were going to violently attempt to impose a theocratic regime, but…hey, Noble Prize… *drops AK, walks away to open flower stand instead*

    1. It might make it politically less viable for one of the western democracies to come and kick their sand castles down because we like those other islamist better.

  5. The swarming hordes of goddamn D.C. screwfucks can’t seem to compute that their constant crush of legislated arm-bars, neck-locks, and end-runs around American privacy and liberty is nothing more than ceaseless fucking fuel poured on the eternal coals boiling with living fires deep within the collective soul of those passionate about rising on the wings of liberty. Resisting mightily that which cannot be altered after implementation is the FUCKING reason Libertarians goddamn exist.

    The vast majority of the fucking timid shits in the other political collectives would sell their own motherfucking butthole for an app that made walking to the goddamn fridge easy much the fucking LESS give a goddamn single whit about the trail into totalitarian hell their fucking country is strolling down.

    1. FUCK YEAH!

      “What the hell Agile be sayin’?”

      “I dunno – we gettin’ paid. Just keep on sangin’….”

  6. the transition in Tunisia shows that civil society institutions and organizations can play a crucial role in a country’s democratization

    Uh… no doi.

  7. Oh what a coincidence, there’s an article in Spectator arguing that Tunisia is not a success, because it’s shittier now than it was.

    The article on religious rights in the new Tunisian constitution was in fact amended at the last minute to pacify the Islamist bloc. It now obliges the state to protect ‘the sacred’ from insult. Insulting religious extremism was the one kind of freedom of expression deposed dictator Ben Ali did vigorously defend, but now it is used as the main vehicle to stifle dissent. As the new constitution was being voted through, jailed Tunisian blogger Jabeur Mejri ? a critic of radical Islam then serving a seven-year-prison sentence for ‘publishing works likely to disturb public order’ ? was granted asylum in Sweden.

    1. Oh yeah? Does jailed Tunisian blogger Jabeur Mejri have a Nobel Peace Prize? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

      1. Oh shit, I didn’t think of it! And he’s conveniently in Sweden – when The Quartet picks up the prize, they should also pick him up as well (yes, I know Peace Prize gets picked up in Oslo, go with it).

        1. Sweden, Norway; potayto, potahto.

          1. So what you are saying is Sweden needs to reclaim its ancestral lands to the west? As long as their invasion features longships, I’m OK with it!

      2. Pssh. Jailed Tunisian blogger Jabeur Mejri is no Yasser Arafat/Henry Kissinger/Barack Obama, that’s for sure.

    2. Before…, Tunisia was the most secular, progressive, economically vibrant and peaceful Muslim country in modern history. Abortion was available on demand. Prostitution was legal and government-regulated. The streets were as safe as Singapore’s. Homosexuality was tolerated. The veil was banned in government institutions and discouraged in public. Pious men who wanted to grow long beards had to request a permit from the local police…. Mosques were shuttered outside of prayer times. Tolerance of other religions was taught in the education system. Religion and state were separated. The Jewish minority was protected. And the radical Islamists were where they should always be: rotting in prison.

      The red light districts have since been closed. The veil and Islamist beard are ubiquitous. The press is subservient and self-censored. Tunisian gays are being imprisoned. And anyone who dares to assert their atheism ? again, perfectly acceptable under Ben Ali ? risks being beaten to a pulp.

      Darn, it’s always a mixed bag like this: a choice between repressing a religion & letting that religion oppress everybody else. It does seem the former repression of Islam was relatively mild compared to the oppression by Islam now. OTOH, hard to quantify people’s desires vs. each other.

  8. When I heard this on the radio this morning I thought the Quartet was a singing group.

    (it was early)

  9. So the best result now would be military dictatorships.

    After that, a second revolution resulting in democracy.

    1. You mammals are always just one more violent mob away from peace

      1. Perpetual war for peace

    2. Cf. Turkey. The country, not the meat.

  10. Indian maid’s arm cut off by employer…..index.html

    1. Dared to bare arms or too soon?

      1. Unlike you, hers won’t grow back. I haz a sad :*(

  11. Related: interesting timeline breakdown on Syria…..index.html

  12. When it comes to all things Tunisia, I consult Dizzy Gillespie:

  13. I guess the takeaway is, it’s been a long downhill slide since the days of the Carthaginian Republic.

  14. alas, if there is one thing that utterly dooms you in your efforts, it’s getting the nobel peace prize.

    does the iaea still have theirs?

  15. The committee has good intentions, but is trying to influence outcomes rather than award accomplishments as their blunder by awarding a prize to the worst person in the world before he ever was responsible for the wars, deaths,and turmoil in the present world.

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