ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Whither the Tunisian Citizen's Revolt?

It would be foolish to expect smooth transitions after the mass revolts in some Arab countries. One will see unexpected events, the emergence of new forces and weakened states in places where dictators ruled. This is inevitable since new forces have not consolidated power and learned how to re-establish effective new states. With the economies in a shambles, job creation - a major popular demand - has had to be put on hold, thereby making an expectant population ever more frustrated and angry. Tunisia has become a mass society, ready to be mobilised. It is waiting for leaders to emerge who can rally electoral majorities and rule effectively.

Mass revolts and revolutions usually produce initial confusion and chaos. Just think of the Russian revolution: the British historian Orlando Figes concluded from his innovative research that it was miraculous that the Bolsheviks survived and succeeded in consolidating their state after being on the brink of collapse in the years immediately following the 1917 upheaval.1 Any student of the French Revolution knows how events there devoured leaders and ultimately produced a series of class wars.2 The Chinese upheaval ended in the Cultural Revolution, which turned the society on its head. Few in positions of authority escaped.3 In other words, we should expect instability as revolts and revolutions play themselves out.

It would be foolish to expect smooth transitions after a mass revolt of Arab citizens. It will take several years, perhaps decades, before we see new political orders emerge.4 In the meantime we will see unexpected events and new forces attempting to influence the post-revolt period. Likewise, we should expect to find weakened states in places where dictators ruled. This is inevitable, since the institutions and main individuals that ran the dictatorships have been broken, exiled, or imprisoned, and new forces have not consolidated enough power and learned how to re-establish effective new states. With economies in a shambles because of the fall in tourism and the drying up of local and foreign investment, job creation, a major popular demand, has had to be put on hold, thereby making an expectant population ever more frustrated and angry. Tunisia has become a mass society, ready to be mobilised.5 It is waiting for leaders to emerge who can rally electoral majorities and rule effectively.

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