December 10, 2012

News & Analysis: Arab Spring 2.0

    Monday, December 10, 2012   No comments

In the last two weeks, violent protests have taken place in the two countries that started the Arab Spring: Tunisia and Egypt. In Tunisia, protesters paralyzed the province of Siliana. Like Sidi Bouzid, where Elbouazizi sparked the Tunisian revolution, Siliana has many grievances. But protests quickly spread to other cities including the capital, Tunis. The Tunisian government is now mulling a reshuffle.

In Egypt, over two weeks ago, President Mohammed Morsi announced a constitutional decree that was seen by many as a power grab in the absence of an elected parliament and a ratified new constitution. Opposition forces returned to Tahrir Square demanding that he rolls back his decisions. He reacted by hastily scheduling a referendum on a new constitution drafted by a body dominated by Islamists. Yesterday, he gave the military police powers authorizing it to arrest civilians during the December 15 vote.

Basking in the sun of success after mediating a ceasefire in Gaza, Mohammed Morsi did not wait to cash in at home. He celebrated by giving himself more power. In fact, the authorities he sought made him more powerful than his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak. He, like many other Arab rulers, seems not to grasp the reality of the new Arab world: people now care less about who governs and more about how they govern.

Governments in Tunisia and Egypt face a major test partly because the current leaders have been dragging their feet making the transition to democratic rule. The common feature is that both countries are now governed by Islamist parties. A close look will reveal serious concerns that may lead to the fall of the current governments, which could trigger chaos in the region.

The Muslim Brotherhood, who joined late the uprising that ousted the former autocrat, seem to think that they can now make the revolution theirs. They think that they can provide a fresh narrative that gives them credit for removing a dictator and protecting the revolution.

The same is happening in Tunisia. Nearly a year after the fall of Ben Ali’s regime, Tunisia held its first free and fair elections. On October 23, 2011, Ennahdha movement, the Tunisian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, won nearly 42 percent of the seats of the constitutional assembly. The vote was supposed to produce a temporary government and a temporary legislative body tasked with writing a new constitution on the basis of which new elections will produce the new institutions of governance. They were supposed to accomplish these tasks in one year. A year has passed and nothing was accomplished.

It appears that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Ennahdha in Tunisia are more interested in entrenching themselves in the halls of power than transitioning to representative governance. Most people in these two countries started to see this pattern and they went back to the street reminding the new rulers that they do not want to go back to single party or one person rule.



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Islamic Societies Review Editors

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