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Tunisian constitution endorsement is historic

Wednesday 12 February 2014, by siawi3

Arabic News Digest
February 11, 2014 Updated: February 11, 2014 18:26:00

The formal endorsement in Tunisia on Friday of the first democratic constitution in the Arab Spring marked a historic moment in the country and the Arab region, wrote Taoufik Bouachrine in the Morocco-based daily Akhbar Al Youm.

It is a moment of compromise on new rules of the game between seculars and Islamists, and liberals and leftists – a rarity in the Arab world where political groups are used to exclusion, finger-pointing and conflicts, the writer noted.

With this achievement, the quarters that would shout that the Arab Spring had turned into a “cold autumn†must be very disappointed.

The autocratic regimes bet that Tunisia, the birthplace of the nascent Arab democratic uprisings, would fail to reach a compromise on the constitution and the transition; they hoped that the assassinations, the salafists, the hired press and the remnants would dominate the country’s transition. They were disappointed.

Interestingly, Tunisia’s security forces arrested the suspects in the assassination of opposition politicians Mohammed Brahmi and Chokri Belaid the same week the constitution was approved.

A second republic has been created in Tunisia, completely different from the one-party system before it. For the first time, Tunisians have promulgated an exemplary modern constitution. And now, they are waiting for the Tunisian train to start rolling to reach the club of democracies.

So what was the recipe that produced this political feat that the world applauded on Friday?

The key factor is compromise. Political players were able to overcome egotism and the residues of despotism and sit down at the table to rescue the country.

The second keyword is the maturity of Tunisia’s Islamist Ennahda Party, which stepped down despite having a majority in the parliament, thus reassuring rivals at home and foiling many overseas attempts at aborting Tunisia’s experience.

Ennahda’s leader Rachid Ghannouchi has learnt from the mistake of Egypt’s Mohammed Morsi, who thought that critical transitions could be managed by the rules of the majority and the polls alone. Egypt’s Islamists benefited from Tunisia’s successful revolution, and Tunisia’s Islamists benefited from Egypt’s failed revolution.

The third important factor is the role of the civil society, namely the Tunisian Labour Union which narrowed the gap between politicians and opened channels for dialogue and consensus. This shows the role of civil society and the middle class in entrenching moderation and compromise.

The fourth element is the army’s refusal to interfere in politics although many quarters urged it to end the political experience. Also, there was no direct foreign interference by major powers, as was the case in Egypt and Syria due to their proximity to Israel.