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In Tunisia, some wonder if the revolution was worth it: Tunisians are putting their hard-won right to criticize the government to good use. They just wish there was less to protest.

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  1. Kuromantis

    Tunisia’s dictatorship is long gone. Its president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, fled the country in January 2011 after a brutal 23-year rule, the first strongman to fall in the Arab Spring revolts that began in Tunisia and surged across the Middle East. Ten years later, Tunisians have built a democracy, however dysfunctional, complete with elections and — that rarest of Arab commodities — the right to free speech.

    So it is that the protests, strikes and sit-ins seem to almost never stop. Graffiti gleefully denounces the police. Bloggers and citizen journalists howl about official mismanagement, heap scorn on political opponents and lob corruption allegations against government officials high and low, their Facebook posts then shared and amplified by thousands of fellow Tunisians.

    But none of it has righted an economy heading for shipwreck. Nearly a third of young people are jobless, public services are foundering and corruption has increasingly infiltrated daily life. Opportunities for most people have become so scant, especially in Tunisia’s impoverished interior, that at least 13,000 Tunisian migrants gambled their lives crossing to Italy by boat just in the last year.

    “Justice and dignity,” as the revolutionaries once chanted, seem a long way off.

    On that front, outraged Tunisians have no louder bullhorn than Abir Moussi, a former official in Mr. Ben Ali’s party who has reinvented herself as one of the country’s most popular politicians by spotlighting the decline in public services, vowing to restore what she says was Tunisia’s prosperity under the former president and outright denying that a revolution ever happened.

    Just after the downfall of Mr. Ben Ali, his regime was so tarnished that Ms. Moussi got her hair pulled as she defended his party in court. Now, her Free Destourian Party leads the polls, and some analysts fear that her populist appeal, which mixes Ben Ali-era nostalgia with proposals to strengthen the presidency and security forces, could push Tunisia back toward authoritarianism.

    2 votes