The Arab Spring revolutions that swept through the Middle East have faced enormous challenges and obstacles. This unfortunate fact has prompted some to say that the Arab Spring is withering and dying, while others say it has turned into an autumn where the leaves of democracy and progress are shriveling and falling to the ground.
The challenges of the Arab Spring stemmed from the nature of the revolutions themselves. Each country’s battle has been shaped by the particular characteristics of the political powers who fought for freedom or survival. There were attempts inside Arab nations to utilise the revolutions to bring about political Islam and exclude the youth or the civilian political powers who carried the burden of fomenting the Arab revolutions in the first place. The old regimes have tried to maintain the old policies that have led to the poverty and marginalisation of many sectors of society. The Arab Spring also faced attempts from abroad to contain its revolutionary power and ensure it does not jeopardise the status of Israel in the region.
In the Arab Spring countries, capital resources had a clout in changing the course of events towards the advantage of particular groups. These are the groups that benefited under the former regimes and have tried to compensate their losses by participating once again in public affairs through media and business. In other words, these countries have become an open arena for the conflicting interests of domestic and international players.
In short, the Arab Spring almost lost its momentum and aspirations by heading down a path of internal and external conflicts and contradictions. That made many groups who participated in the Arab Spring disappointed from the failure to achieve the objectives of the revolutions after toppling authoritarian regimes.
However, the recent Tunisian parliamentary elections have renewed the hope of those frustrated groups. In the wake of the elections, Tunisia seemed like the savior of the Arab Spring from its ill fate, much like it was the initial inspiration of the Arab Spring revolutions from the town of Sidi Bouzid on 15 January 2011. Hence, Tunisia seems to have secured a peaceful way out of trouble to the joy of the revolution’s supporters. The ideals the Tunisians have adopted are based on democracy, citizenship and the peaceful transfer of power, while at the same time maintaining the civilian characteristic of the state. This major achievement was done through free and fair elections and through respecting the results by trusting its impartiality.
Certainly, the Tunisian model is expected to have repercussions not only on the neighbouring countries, but outside the region as well. Especially in light of how the path of many revolutions have veered off towards civil wars, sectarianism and the establishment of religious states, far from the spirit of the peaceful non-religious revolutions that aimed towards democracy and pluralism. However, the effect of the Tunisian model can be doubled if Egypt manages also to create a civil model based on democracy, human rights, citizenship and pluralism. If Egypt, with its great importance in the Middle East, can achieve this model it will open up new horizons to the Arab Spring revolutions, encouraging its nations’ citizens to realise their demands and aspirations. In fact, Tunisia and Egypt can be the saviours of the Arab Spring.
Abdel-Alim Mohamed is a counsellor at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.