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About this book

This book analyzes the political economy of the MENA region with a focus on pre-revolutionary political and economic conditions, the 2011 revolution itself, and post-revolutionary political processes in Tunisia. The author places particular emphasis on the political role of women, Islam, and democracy after the revolution, and argues that post-Revolution Tunisia serves as an ideal model for the MENA region to follow. This volume will interest scholars, students, researchers, and everyone who is interested in the politics of MENA and political economy.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Introduction

Abstract
This chapter provides the theoretical framework and methodology of the book’s analysis and a summary of the 2011 revolution in Tunisia and an overview of the country’s political economy. The chapter introduces the findings of the 2002 Arab Human Development Report (AHDR) and explains how it is relevant to the analysis. An overview of the political economy of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is described. The layout of the book and brief descriptions of the chapters are provided. While most of the MENA countries suffer from political and economic problems and deficiencies, in some cases manifesting themselves in violent conflicts, Tunisia has maintained stability throughout its post-revolution transitions, notwithstanding serious obstacles and tribulations. Tunisia is the “outlier,” or the anomaly in the region. This book examines the reasons behind Tunisia’s uniqueness, which primarily pertains to its commitment to national dialogue.
Hayat Alvi

Chapter 2. Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution Demands Dignity

Abstract
This chapter examines the historical background and political economy causal factors leading up to Tunisia’s 2011 revolution that removed from power the dictator Zain al-Abidine Ben Ali. Comparisons are presented between Tunisia’s case and those of Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and Syria, which also experienced their own “Arab Awakening” uprisings and revolutions. In 2011, pro-democracy movements erupted to the surface and ousted dictators and regimes from power. The protest movements of the Arab Awakening “weaponized” defiance with massive non-violent—albeit angry—street protests and demonstrations. All of these uprisings and revolutions have been inspired by Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution, which demanded freedoms, rights, and dignity. The impetus for Tunisia’s revolution was Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire on December 17, 2010. The rest, as they say, is history. Since then, Tunisia has remained committed to non-violent transitions through political dialogue, negotiations, and compromises in the spirit of preserving and protecting its nascent democracy.
Hayat Alvi

Chapter 3. Women in the Frontlines: Tunisia’s Revolution

Abstract
This chapter examines the role and impact of women’s activism in Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, and the current status of the women’s rights movement in Tunisia is also described. The tensions between the secular feminists and religious (especially Salafist) hardliners are presented, and implications for Tunisia’s future political economy as it pertains to gender relations and issues are articulated. Amartya Sen’s Social Choice Theory and Comparative Democratization and Revolution theories are applied to gender equality in the Tunisia context. Observations about similar women’s activism in post–Arab Awakening MENA countries are presented. The MENA region is notorious for woeful violations of women’s rights and freedoms, as it is a predominantly patriarchal, traditional, and conservative, and often sexist and misogynist, society. It has been thought that with women so prominently active in the 2011 Arab Awakening, they would be ensured greater political participation and rights and freedoms. The results have been extremely disappointing for women’s rights and empowerment in the MENA region, as the patriarchal system continues to win out against feminist activism.
Hayat Alvi

Chapter 4. Tunisia’s Political Health

Abstract
This chapter examines the “political” side of the political-economy equation. The pre- and post-revolution political variables are presented and brought up-to-date. In political economy, politics and economics are interdependent. The main focus of this chapter is on Tunisia’s political health and processes following the 2011 Jasmine Revolution. Some aspects of the other regional actors’ politics are brought into the analysis where relevant for comparative purposes.
The essence of Tunisia’s post-revolution political process is democratic evolution; to describe it more aptly, evolution after revolution. After the 2011 revolution expelled Ben Ali, the political processes for the evolving democracy have involved difficult negotiations among disputing parties, groups, and civil society; the challenging process of preparing the country for the first ever democratic elections; the seemingly impossible task of organizing a committee to revise the constitution; and all the while maintaining stability and security in the country during the most fragile and vulnerable stages of its post-revolution reformation, transitions, and political development. Tunisia’s complex political developments and processes are explained.
Hayat Alvi

Chapter 5. Tunisia’s Economic Health

Abstract
This chapter examines the “economic” side of the political-economy equation. Tunisia’s post-revolution economy is facing some difficulties. The economy is not growing and developing as fast as people want and expect it to since the 2011 Jasmine Revolution. The economic hardships are straining people, especially the lower economic classes which mainly reside in the interior region. The outlying coastal areas are more upscale and cater most to the tourism industry. Endless grand resorts line the coast stretching across 1148 km. The south consists of mostly desert terrain and climate, and thus is less populated compared to the north, which enjoys a more temperate and accommodating climate. This is the backdrop to the analysis of Tunisia’s economic health. While Chap. 4 examined the political side of the political-economy interdependence equation, this chapter focuses on the economy side. Tunisia has desperately needed foreign direct investments (FDIs) and economic strengthening since the revolution. Bureaucratic obstacles tend to slow down economic progress, and terrorist attacks have strategically targeted the tourism industry. However, the Tunisian people have not given up. They continue to work hard to resuscitate the economy, despite the daunting challenges.
Hayat Alvi

Chapter 6. Secularism Versus Political Islam: The Case of Tunisia

Abstract
This chapter explores the unique dynamics of political negotiations and compromises between “secularists” and “Islamists” in Tunisian politics in the post-2011 revolution era. This aspect of post-revolution Tunisia has signified the greatest achievement of an Arab state in the modern era and places Tunisia on a pedestal of non-violent activism to achieve consensus.
The attempts to balance the opposing interests and values of the secularists and Islamists have been extremely challenging for the Tunisian government and people. The very national character, identity, and ideology of the country are at stake, and both sides are competing for securing the ideological mantle at the national level. Tremendous credit goes to Tunisia’s Islamist political party, Ennahda, for volunteering to step down from power, rather than stubbornly prolonging the political crisis, and this gesture, along with building national consensus, has accounted for Tunisia’s non-violent political change. Given that all other Arab Awakening countries in the MENA region have fallen into violent chaos at various levels, Tunisia stands out as the anomaly and an ideal example for the rest of the region to follow.
Hayat Alvi

Chapter 7. Conclusion

Abstract
This chapter summarizes the analytical findings of the book, along with discussion about the hypothesis, the current situation regarding the political economy of the MENA region, specifically Tunisia, and the way ahead. Tunisia is presented as an ideal model for the region to follow for peaceful, non-violent political, social, and economic transformations, reforms, and transitions.
This analysis sheds light on the MENA region’s political economy trends, which have shown little improvement since the 2002 Arab Human Development Report (AHDR) was published. Because the political and economic variables are interdependent, especially in the era of globalization, the health of the MENA region’s political economy presupposes good governance and sound policy-making. However, the region unequivocally illustrates the direct opposite, that is, the preponderance of violent conflicts and wars which perpetuate cycles of humanitarian crises; poor domestic economic policies; poverty and glaring economic class gaps; prevalence of corruption; propensity for authoritarianism; marginalization, if not suppression, of women’s rights and empowerment; and persistent deficiencies in education, knowledge, and information. Due to these factors, the MENA region is seemingly regressing, rather than progressing, and that makes the Tunisia model all the more attractive.
Hayat Alvi

Backmatter

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