The Arab World’s Options

AMMAN – When the Arab awakening began in 2011, its primary goal should have been to advance pluralism and democracy – causes that were neglected in the Arab world’s first, anti-colonial awakening in the twentieth century. But, after three years of struggle, the process has only just begun. Will the second Arab awakening finally achieve its goals?

The answer depends on which of three models Arab countries use to guide their transition: an inclusive, far-sighted model that aims to build consensus; a winner-take-all approach that excludes large segments of the population; or a stop-at-nothing approach focused on regime survival. These models reflect the vast differences among Arab countries’ current circumstances and prospects for the future.

The strongest example of the inclusive model is Tunisia, where former opponents have formed a coalition government, without military interference. Of course, the process was not easy. But, after a tense struggle, Tunisians recognized that cooperation was the only way forward.

In February, Tunisia adopted the Arab world’s most progressive constitution, which establishes equality between men and women, provides for peaceful alternation of government, and recognizes the right of citizens to be without religious belief – an unprecedented move in the region, supported by both Islamist and secular forces. Tunisia’s experience embodies the commitment to pluralism and democracy for which the second Arab awakening stands.