The American Interest

The Blowback

On September 24 I embarked on a week-long tour of Tunisia, hoping to learn more on the aftermath of last year’s revolution and the state of political play ahead of the elections, which are due before the year’s end.  The findings are surprising.  The country looks and feels civilized, roadside trash notwithstanding.  It is safe for a foreigner, not only on the magnificent Boulevard Habib Bourgiba in Tunis, or at the beachside resorts of Hammamet, but also in the cafés and ramshackle stores in the interior where no European has ventured in years.  A smile and a Bonjour, monsieur! greeted me everywhere, from the soukh in El Kef to the desolate gas station at the edge of the Sahara.

Far from having the absolute supremacy enjoyed by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Tunisia’s Islamic party, Ennah­dha, is sharing power in a coalition that includes secularists who opposed Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali’s regime and were the first to hit the streets in January last year.  President Moncef Marzouki, a suave, fluent French speaker, is one of them.  Ennah­dha’s leader Rachid Ghannouchi is still the most powerful player in the country, but he is likely to fall short of an absolute parliamentary election because many Tunisians are disappointed by the graft and corruption that remain endemic a year after his party became the majority...

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