On January 14th, 2011, Tunisian President Ben Ali fled the country after weeks of civil protests, marking the first successful revolution of the Arab Spring. This past October, elections widely perceived as free and fair elected a Constituent Assembly tasked with drafting a new Constitution. Though the moderate Islamist Al Nahda (“Renaissance”) Party commands 41% of Parliamentary seats, the new government encompasses a wide ideological spectrum, with strong representation of both secular and leftist parties. After years of dictatorship, the upcoming constitution-making process is poised to shape Tunisia’s future for decades to come.
As a graduate student of International Relations, I am writing this blog in an attempt to chronicle my time in Tunisia on a Boren Fellowship, from January-June 2012. While here, I will be taking intensive Arabic language classes at the Bourguiba Institute and conducting research for my MA thesis at The Fletcher School/Tufts University. Using Egypt as a comparative case, my research seeks to measure the degree to which the old regime is being integrated into the new political order, and understand the impact of that incorporation or exclusion on the democratic transition process.
Though perhaps not the largest or most culturally significant Arab state, the fragile democratic experiment in Tunisia — home of ancient Carthage — is being monitored globally as a hopeful indicator of the outcome of the Arab Spring revolutions. During this key transition period, I hope to share whatever insight I can gather on the ground with my broader family, friend and peer networks. As a relative newcomer to the Maghreb region, I anticipate providing equal parts travel-writing and political analysis. Thanks for reading and enjoy!