TUNIS – Ten months after the collapse of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s authoritarian regime, Tunisia has produced a remarkable balancing act between the revolutionary urge for change and a pragmatic need for continuity. With elections for a constitutional assembly due to take place on October 23, the country that ignited the “Arab Awakening” is emerging as a regional paradigm for a stable democratic transition.
A number of preconditions have smoothed Tunisia’s path. Whereas Egypt struggles with the need to assert civilian control over the military, the Tunisian army has stayed out of politics. And, in contrast to Libya, the Tunisian population never took up arms during the protests. The economy does not run on hydrocarbons. And, notwithstanding serious inequalities between Tunisia’s littoral and inland areas, this small country of 10 million people is, according to the World Bank, an upper-middle-income economy.