Tunisia’s political future remains uncertain

January 18, 2011

Produced by Worldview

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(Getty/Franck Prevel)
Solidarity with Tunisia and Algeria demonstration in Paris.

Without constitutional reform, democracy in Tunisia will be difficult. That’s according to Christopher Alexander, political science professor at Davidson College and author of “Tunisia: Stability and Reform in the Modern Maghreb.”

“There’s a little bit of a chicken and egg dilemma here,” Alexander told WBEZ’s Worldview. “There are badly needed constitutional reforms. But what comes first the reforms or duly elected representatives to make those reforms?”

Tunisia’s political unrest has not only forced President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to step down after 23 years, but continues to wreak havoc on the country’s makeshift government. Violent, pro-democracy protests have contributed to the resignation of at least five officials, leaving the unity government verging on collapse.

The continued protests are in reaction to the unity government’s current leaders, who have been carried over from the old government. Alexander explains that the makeshift government still employs appointees from the old system. The problem stems from a limited pool of qualified applicants. Because Tunisia has never had fairly elected government in its independent history, there are few people competent and experienced enough to effectively run a government, he notes.

Despite the challenge, Alexander remains hopeful that country can pull itself out of its current situation. “I think it’s perfectly reasonable to expect that Tunisians could develop a meaningful system that does involve a presidency, a meaningful one, but also a meaningful parliament and a constitution that allows them to govern together in a productive way,” he says.