Tunisia, long seen as a small, peripheral state in the corner of the Arab world, was suddenly catapulted as a catalyst for change in the region after the self-immolation of a disgruntled street vendor, Mohammad Bu Azizi, who set the spark for the entire region to rise up against tyrants.
While most of the subsequent revolutions were suppressed, confronted with brute force, or reversed, Tunisia’s remained largely on course with minor hiccups on the way. That is why Tunisia remains the last ray of hope for an all but dead Arab Spring. A failure of the democratic experiment in Tunisia will hammer in the last nail in the Arab Spring’s coffin and strip millions of Arabs of this generation of the hope of democracy and self-determination.
The weight on Tunisia’s shoulder is therefore great. It must not only ensure success for its 10 million people, but also for the rest of the 300 million Arabs that look up to it in anticipation. The country has taught the region many lessons, most important of which are that Arabs cannot only rebel against tyrants, but that they can elect alternative governments and throw them out if they do not perform. It is a country in which Islamists were elected, then held accountable and removed in a peaceful transition.
With the rest of the region going through an Islamist revival, Tunisia once again proves to be a refreshing anomaly, with both presidential contenders being staunch secularists. If Tunisia continues on the same track, it can prove that the Arab Spring was not in vain.