First Published: 2012-12-14

 

Two years, on Arab Spring states awash with problems

 

Tunisians dismayedby political, economic paralysis, Egyptians divided more than ever, Libyans feel insecure.

 

Middle East Online

By Mokhtar Kahouli - SIDI BOUZID, Tunisia

Power struggle

Tunisians, already troubled by the rise of radical Islamists, are eyeing the political and economic paralysis gripping their country with a dismay shared across much of the region two years after the Arab Spring began.

In Sidi Bouzid -- the central town where Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire on December 17, 2010, an act of desperation that sparked Tunisia's uprising and touched off the Arab Spring -- celebrations are planned to mark the anniversary.

But reflecting the country's political divisions, part of the celebrations committee resigned in protest on Thursday, complaining of a "stranglehold" over the event by the ruling Islamist party Ennahda.

And an anti-government rally is expected on the day, by opposition activists angry at their leaders' failure to kickstart a recovery and improve living conditions.

Residents of the restive town are almost unanimous that nothing has changed since the ouster of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011, with unemployment, a driving factor behind the uprising, continuing to plague the region.

"What revolution are you talking about? Nothing has changed here," laments Ezzedine Nasri, a street vendor like Bouazizi.

Nasri's wife, a university graduate, has been unable to find work since 2002.

Since coming to power in October 2011 after winning Tunisia's first free elections, the government has struggled to revive the economy and is accused, in particular, of turning a blind eye towards crimes allegedly committed by the Salafist movement.

The Salafists, hardline Islamists, have been implicated in numerous acts of violence this year, including against Sufi shrines and art galleries and an attack in September on the US embassy in Tunis that left four people dead.

As recently as Thursday night, presumed Salafists attacked a hotel in the town of Sbeitla and tried to set it on fire after sacking the lobby and destroying bottles of alcohol in the hotel bar, police and witnesses said.

Tunisia's Constituent Assembly has made little progress in drafting a new constitution and electoral law, with the process repeatedly hampered by differences between Islamists and secularists within the interim parliament.

Legislative and presidential elections have been postponed to June and could be pushed back further, contributing to the sense of uncertainty.

On Wednesday, Fitch Ratings cut Tunisia's credit rating by one notch to BB+, putting its debt in the speculative or so-called junk category, saying the country's "economic and political transition is proving longer and more difficult than anticipated."

In Egypt, President Mohamed Morsi's decree last month giving him near-absolute powers in a bid to push through a divisive new constitution has sparked weeks of rival protests by his Islamist followers and secular opponents.

Under mounting pressure, Morsi rescinded the decree at the weekend but is pushing through with a referendum this weekend on the constitution, which the opposition is urging its supporters to reject, claiming it undermines fundamental human rights and could lead to a strong Islamist influence on future legislation.

Fears of violence are running high after clashes in Cairo last week in which eight people were killed and more than 600 injured.

Earlier this week, the IMF put on hold a $4.8-billion loan Egypt has sought to fill budget gaps it will face in the 2013-2014 fiscal year, after the government asked for a delay in the negotiations because of the political situation.

In Libya, the authorities managed to organise general elections in July and have restored oil production levels, but security has proven the biggest challenge facing the government since the ouster of dictator Moamer Gathafi last year.

Eight months of armed conflict left daunting challenges for the transitional authorities, who are struggling to build up state institutions and rein in the militias that were the backbone of the anti-Gathafi war.

Libya's economy has made a swift recovery.

But the country is awash with weapons and extremist groups remain a serious threat, as illustrated by the September 11 assault on the US consulate in Benghazi, in which US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

 

Enormous challenges emerge after full liberation of Ramadi

Border camps full as Syria families escape regime offensive

Kurdish leader accuses Ankara of 'massacre' over Cizre operation

Mubarak era ‘reappears’ five years after his ouster

Syria artists find inspiration in haunting ruins of Homs

Hamas fighter dies in latest tunnel collapse

Aleppo siege spells trouble for the West

Egypt policeman jailed for beating vet to death

How many civilians are living under 'surrender or starve' sieges in Syria?

NATO to consider policing refugee crisis

Iran deal will delay bomb up to 15 years

Top spy warns homegrown extremists pose biggest danger to US

UN to Turkey: Open borders to stranded Syria refugees

From Muslim Chechnya to ISIS: Spies collect intelligence to help Russia

Kremlin rebukes Merkel over criticism of Russia air strikes in Syria

Nine killed in Damascus car bomb attack

Approval of reformists raises potential for change in Iran

Saudi Patriot missile shoots down Scud fired from Yemen

Pentagon chief seeks anti-IS support in Europe

Iraq military advance reopens Ramadi-Baghdad road

IEA holds OPEC responsible for oil supply glut

Iraqi woman charged over US hostage death

Gunbattle between Yemeni forces, Qaeda militants in Aden

UAE tries 'Hezbollah', 'Qaeda' cell members

US welcomes Saudi offer to deploy troops in Syria

Israel sets two conditions for return of Palestinian bodies

Moscow denies accusation that air strikes undermined Syria talks

Israeli general says IS wounded were treated in Gaza

Doctors, police protest in northern Iraq

Canada to cease all air strikes against ISIS by February 22

Outraged Italy demands answers over brutal killing of student in Egypt

Libya Presidential Council needs ‘more time’ to form unity government

Pressure on multiple fronts squeezes rebels in northern Syria

Bahrain charges 11 with forming 'terrorist' group

Obama to Arab countries: security requires 'inclusive government'

Tunnel collapse kills one Gazan man on Egypt border

South Sudan war zones on the brink of famine

Khamenei to Iran officials: Don’t let elections distract you!

UN accuses Assad regime of 'extermination' in jails

At least 35 migrants drown in two accidents in Aegean Sea

Cameron's office warns Brexit could affect border controls

Russia detains seven alleged IS members

Turkey groups send in aid for thousands of Syria refugees on border

Iraq prepares for Mosul offensive with massive deployment

Syria rebels withdraw from three Aleppo villages