Initial Thoughts on Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution

by Joshua Tucker on January 15, 2011 · 3 comments

in Blogs

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Shortly after Belarus’s recent presidential election seemed to confirm that the time of Colored Revolutions in the post-communist space had passed (see here, here, and here), news arrives of the now tenatively named Tunisian Jasmine Revolution. With the caveat that I know practically nothing about Tunisian politics, let me just offer a few quick comments about putting this in the larger context of the Colored Revolutions.

  • Unlike the typical post-communist Colored Revolution, the Jasmine Colored Revolution has not followed an allegedly fraudulent election, but rather a month of protest over what the Washington Post has described as as “a 29-day popular uprising against unemployment, police brutality and the regime’s corruption.” It is worth noting that the so called Lebanese Cedar Revolution also did not follow a fraudulent election, so we may begin to see discussion of a different type of “Middle Eastern Colored Revolution” (although of course the attempted Green Revolution in Iran did follow an allegedly fraudulent election.)
  • If “Middle Eastern Colored Revolutions” do in fact take a different path that does not involve elections as triggers, will that ultimately provide a larger obstacle to installing democratically elected governments, as their is no clear government in waiting? One of the features of the Colored Revolutions was that if you succeeded in “throwing the bums out” following a fraudulent election, there was usually a government in waiting with a claim to democratic legitimacy due to the recent election that was ready to go. Will the delay needed to get such a democratically elected government in place ultimately make democratization more difficult to achieve in these non-electoral Colored Revolutions?
  • If successful, the big question following the Jasmine Revolution is clearly going to be whether this was a one-off deal involving Tunisia for idiosyncratic reasons, or whether this potentially heralds the beginning of a more general movement against authoritarian states in the Arab world. While the tailing off of Colored Revolutions in the post-communist space suggests caution ought to be in order in this regard, it always remains possible that the correct analogy will turn out to be not the Colored Revolutions of the 2000s, but rather the actual anti-Communist revolutions of the 1989-90, which clearly ended up having a strong contagion effect. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves here, it is important to remember that there is as of yet no guarantee of democratic change even in Tunisia, let alone anywhere else.
  • Finally, it seems very interesting how little media coverage in the West the first 28 days of the Tunisian protest seemed to have drawn.

I do want to once again reitarate that most of what I know about Tunisian politics I’ve learned in the last hour reading news reports of the Jasmine Revolution, so I want to close this post with an open invitation to readers of the Monkey Cage who know something more substantial about Tunisian politics to submit a guest post on this topic. I would also welcome informed commentary on the final point – is this potentially a game changer in terms of regime change in the Arab world – as I am sure we are going to see a flood of these types of articles in the media in the immediate future. If you are interested in writing on either topic, please contact me directly at joshua dot tucker at nyu dot edu.

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