Fmr. Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki on the impact of Arab Spring

Moncef Marzouki, the first president elected in Tunisia after the 2011 uprising, weighed in on whether his country can be considered an Arab Spring success story and what went wrong in neighbouring states.

“I would talk about a half-success story,” Marzouki said, explaining Tunisia’s experience differed from the “catastrophe” that transpired in other countries because of “the very structure of the Tunisian society.” Tunisia has had “a very strong civil society for many decades.” Marzouki said, noting that Tunisians “don’t have oil, so we don’t attract greed of super powers and so forth.”

Since the revolution, the country has achieved “the political objective, but we didn’t succeed in achieving the economic goals,” he said. However, despite the economic problems, Tunisians will “never accept the comeback of the dictatorship,” Marzouki added, noting “the public opinion is now playing an important role to put the pressure on politicians, to improve their way of behaving.”

The Arab Spring demonstrations of 2011 were “just the first outbursts” of what Marzouki calls “the Arab volcanoes or the Arab earthquake” that is still shaking the Middle East. The fact that the uprisings in Syria and Libya led to all-out war should be considered “the lesson” for dictators, Marzouki said, asserting “you can’t ask the people to accept you just because it can be worse if you’re removed.”