Although the revolution upgraded Tunisia’s regime hardware from an authoritarian to a democratic government, its operating system — its state institutions, laws, bureaucracies, courts and police — remained largely unchanged, the Carnegie Endowment’s William J. Burns and Marwan Muasher write for The Washington Post:
These continued to serve their original function: to capture, not disperse, state resources. As a result, despite the best intentions of Tunisia’s new leadership, billions of dollars and dozens of projects never got off the ground, sending Tunisians back to the streets. This made it much more difficult for Tunisia’s leaders to get public support for necessary, if painful, economic reforms. And it shook international confidence in Tunisia and undermined efforts to generate international support.
“Tunisia and its partners largely know and share a sense of the diagnoses and prescriptions for the country’s ills, they lack a mechanism for helping to turn their common agenda into results,” note Burns – a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy – and Muasher. “This is why there is an urgent need to establish a new framework for partnership — a compact that couples Tunisian-led policy and bureaucratic reforms with more coordinated and concrete international assistance.”
In his latest paper for the London School of Economics (LSE) Middle East Center’s Working Paper Series, Professor Charles Tripp explores the political effects of this opening up of spaces, Carnegie’s Sada Journal reports. In his estimation, the redefinition of space, the struggle over what is “public,” and what constitutes public business (res publica) suggest a substantive change in the practice of politics in Tunisia. In all its complexity, what we have been witnessing over the last several years has been Tunisians setting the boundaries of a new “Tunisian Republic.”