Nicholas Noe in Newsweek: Tunisia, Desperately Seeking Direction
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By Nicholas Noe
Tunisia, the much lauded “success story” of the Arab Spring, is fighting for its survival.
According to the World Bank, growth for the past year is expected to be near zero at best.
In fact, among all the countries of the Middle East, only war-town Libya is expected to do worse when the final numbers are tabulated, according to the international body.
This, of course, represents a serious challenge for a country with a burgeoning youth population, high unemployment and falling standards of living. Indeed, in just the last few months, extended socio-economic protests have rocked the deprived interior and border regions, exactly the locales where Tunisia’s 2010 revolution first began.
Taking advantage of the situation, Daesh seems to have now added a “Southern Strategy” to its year-long repertoire of soft target operations, launching attacks from Libya into the Tunisian border area of Benguerdene in early March apparently with the aim of testing the longstanding grievances of the local population as well as the competency of the government.
Unfortunately, just when strong leadership is most needed, Tunisia’s political class is also unraveling.
The main secular party, Nidaa Tounes, has effectively fragmented into several smaller, warring parts, while the leading Islamist party, Al Nahda, holds only one ministry in a coalition government with weakened Nidaa Tounes remnants.
The result is that all sides have increasingly put forward the claim to their constituents and international allies that they don’t really control the legislative and administrative levers of power and therefore should not be held responsible for the ills that the country is facing or the reforms that many Tunisians say are necessary to protect the country and improve the economy.
As so often happens in similar situations around the world, one side has unambiguously benefited from all of this: The security sector…