Continuing violence and unrest in Egypt is provoking widespread concerns that the most populous Arab nation may descend into civil war or a new dictatorship, extinguishing the hopes of the Arab Spring. But while Egyptians have been staging mass protests, a more encouraging story has been playing out in Tunisia – home to the first Arab revolution. Tunisia’s peaceful accommodation may not make headlines like the bloody street protests across Egypt, but in the end could have greater significance.
Perhaps no less passionately than Egyptians, Tunisians are debating the draft of a new constitution 18 months in the making through an elected constitutional assembly. By translating revolutionary aspirations into transitional government structures and seeking to forge a popular consensus, Tunisian leaders have managed to avoid the most destabilizing aspects that have imperiled Egypt’s transition.
Like Egypt, Tunisia must contend with the vast ideological divide between Islamists and secularists, which present a clear challenge to governance and are far from resolution. But Tunisia’s more deliberate and consensus-based approach could well produce a better and more durable outcome for other Arab nations to emulate.
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