Friday, 28 October 2011

Well done Tunisia, I hope that next spring is Our Spring

I would like to begin my first blog in quite some time, by wholeheartedly congratulating the people of Tunisia, on their first free elections in at least 40 years. The election took place on Sunday, with 90% of those registered to vote turning out and queuing for hours to do so, freely, fairly, and without the involvement of men with guns telling people how to vote.

In results just announced this afternoon, the moderate islamist party Ennehda took 41.47% of the vote to secure 90 out of 217 seats in the assembly established to appoint a president, form a caretaker government and rewrite the constitution, following the peaceful revolution against the regime of Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, which kick-started the "Arab Spring", earlier this year. Second and third places respectively were taken by The Congress for the Republic party founded by human rights activist Monsef Marzouki and The Democratic Forum for Labour and Freedoms led by Mustafa Ben Jaafar. Ennehda leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, said today "We will continue this revolution to realise its aims of a Tunisia that is free, independent, and developing in which the rights of God, the prophet, women, men, the religious and the non-religious are assured, because Tunisia is for everyone."

Taking him on his word, those are sentiments that should indeed be praised, and I have little doubt that he will be held to them. Protests against the results of the election have already ocurred in the town where the revolution started, and if you ask me that is only to be expected. We're talking about a new republic in a country where any form of political expression was illegal, until the mass mobilisation of people onto the streets brought down a dictatorial regime and inspired further uprisings in Egypt, in Libya and arguably New York, London, and dozens of other cities around the world where the 99% movement is taking hold.

These are people who know the power of protest, if they weren't still protesting, I would probably say there was something wrong!

There is obviously much that can still go wrong, but secular liberals do not seem afraid that there is much danger of an islamic dictatorship taking hold, Ennadhi will have no choice but to work closely with the other parties to form a coalition, and is pledged to deliver a new constituion for Tunisia within the next 12 months.

These events do seem to have been overshadowed by the bloodshed in neighbouring Libya, but the remarkable achievements of the Tunisian people so far should not be dismissed. If they pull this off, they will have set an example that the whole world can follow. Regimes that are corrupt, anti-democratic and tyrannical can be overthrown without widespread conflict and NATO bombing raids, the 99% can take the power away from the 1% just by getting out onto the streets and refusing to go home until things change.

Protest is a powerful thing. The surprising thing is not that there are people camped out in our city streets right now demonstrating against greed, and inequity, pollution, war mongering and control of our governments by a tiny minority, when we read that the average salary for the director of an FTSE 100 company increased by 49% this year (and 55% last year), whereas wages for the average worker have not even kept up with rises in inflation, the surprising thing is that there aren't ten thousand times as many people out there as there are.

It is going to be a cold winter for #OccupyWallSt, #OccupyLSX and all the rest, but next spring could be Our Spring!

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