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  • Author: Mohsin Khan, Karim Merzan
  • Publication Date: 10-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, a civil society group comprising the Tunisian General Labor Union; the Tunisian Union of Industry, Trade, and Handicrafts; the Tunisian Human Rights League; and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, October 9, 2015 "for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia." In a new Atlantic Council Issue Brief, "Tunisia: The Last Arab Spring Country," Atlantic Council Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East Senior Fellows Mohsin Khan and Karim Mezran survey the successes of Tunisia's consensus-based transition and the challenges that lie ahead. "The decision to award this year's Nobel Peace Prize to Tunisia's National Dialogue Quartet is an extremely important recognition of the efforts made by Tunisian civil society and Tunisia's political elite to reach a consensus on keeping the country firmly on the path to democratization and transition to a pluralist system," says Mezran. With the overthrow of the authoritarian regime of President Zine El Abedine Ben Ali in 2011, Tunisia embarked on a process of democratization widely regarded as an example for transitions in the region. The National Dialogue Conference facilitated by the Quartet helped Tunisia avert the risk of plunging into civil war and paved the way for a consensus agreement on Tunisia's new constitution, adopted in January 2014. In the brief, the authors warn that despite political successes, Tunisia is hampered by the absence of economic reforms. Facing the loss of tourism and investment following two terror attacks, Tunisia's economy risks collapse, endangering all of the painstaking political progress gained thus far. Unless the Tunisian government moves rapidly to turn the economy around, Tunisia risks unraveling its fragile transition.
  • Topic: Security, Democratization, Economics, Political Activism, Reform
  • Political Geography: Arab Countries, Tunisia
  • Author: Mirette F. Mabrouk, Stefanie A. Hausheer
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Three years after the citizens of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen took to the streets demanding freedom, dignity, and greater economic opportunity, they are struggling with a harsh reality: political change is a slow, painful process. In many cases, the goals of the revolutions are far from being realized. Yet despite the lack of momentum—and in some cases, notable setbacks—there is a recognition that the wall of fear has been broken. This profound shift means that citizens in these countries will continue to demand basic freedoms and more accountable governments that deliver for their people.
  • Topic: Democratization, Human Rights, Human Welfare, Social Movement
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia
  • Author: Amy Hawthorne
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Three years into Egypt's post-Mubarak transition, the near-term prospects for democratization are bleak. The military-security alliance that ousted the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president, in July 2013 is consolidating power. Government repression against the Islamist opposition, and more recently against secular dissenters, is harsher and society is more polarized than in any point in recent memory.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Democratization, Diplomacy, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North America, Egypt
  • Author: Duncan Pickard, Karim Mezran
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Among the many problems facing Libya's troubled transition to democracy is the challenge of constructing a state in a country with a legacy of weak institutions. Muammar al-Qaddafi's brutal forty-two-year dictatorship employed a policy of de-institutionalization, leaving the presence of the state feeble throughout the country. Those organs that were powerful, including the secret security apparatus, lost their leader with Qaddafi's fall in 2011, leaving a power vacuum that nonstate actors have scrambled to fill. Some of the most influential political groups in Libya today are militias formed during and after the revolution. Although some are loosely affiliated with the ministries of interior or defense, most, if not all, do not demonstrate any particular loyalty to the government. Militias have kidnapped the prime minister (the militia responsible called it an “arrest”), assassinated judges and police officers, physically occupied the office of the justice minister, and engaged in an urban battle in Tripoli. They also seek to advance their political interests—which vary, but include influence over officials, rent seeking, and some Islamist agendas—with threats against ministries or officials. And yet the state relies on militias to provide essential security services such as running checkpoints and protecting the airport because no ministry force is up to the task. The ascendancy of these militias points to two troubling realities: the state lacks a monopoly over the use of force and the country faces an ongoing deterioration of the rule of law.
  • Topic: Security, Democratization, Reform
  • Political Geography: Libya, North Africa
  • Author: Karim Mezran, Mohsin Khan
  • Publication Date: 05-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: The popular uprisings that swept the Arab world in 2011 passed Algeria by. While there were sporadic street demonstrations calling for political change, principally in the country's capital Algiers, they quickly petered out due to lack of support from the general public. Unlike in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, the political power system in Algeria remained intact. The autocratic government of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been the president since 1999, retained complete control, culminating in his reelection on April 17 for a fourth term despite his obviously failing health.
  • Topic: Democratization, Governance, Social Movement, Popular Revolt, Reform
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Libya, Arabia, North America, Egypt, Tunisia
  • Author: Jim Kolbe, George Casey
  • Publication Date: 04-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: The democratic transitions in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya will remain reversible unless and until their security agencies are reformed to carry out their functions without abusing citizen rights or interfering in politics. This is true of both internal security forces and armed forces; this report focuses on the latter. The future role of the armed forces is vital to the outcomes of the transitions and to the attainment of US political and strategic interests in the region.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Democratization, International Security
  • Political Geography: Libya, North Africa, Egypt, Tunisia
  • Author: Amy Hawthorne, Danya Greenfield
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: The United States and Europe have yet to show the requisite political will or to develop sustainable strategies to help Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen in their democratic transitions more than two years after a wave of popular revolutions toppled decades-old autocracies. To be sure, deepening political, economic, and security challenges in these countries from June 2012 to August 2013, the period analyzed in this report, complicated efforts to provide support. Yet the United States and the European Union (EU) missed important opportunities to capitalize on openings where they existed or to send consistent and sustained diplomatic messages where needed. Faced with the vast amounts of cash the Gulf countries could provide rapidly to the transition countries, especially to Egypt, some in Washington and Brussels wondered if the United States and the EU even had much to offer. In the past year, fatigue and frustration more than energy and hope have characterized US and European engagement with these countries.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Democratization, Social Movement
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Middle East, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia
  • Author: Richard LeBaron
  • Publication Date: 02-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Two important issues are testing relations between the United States and its allies in the Gulf: democratic transitions in the Arab world and regional security. Their outcome will either strengthen or disrupt what has been a long-term partnership. The United States and its Gulf allies are well into their second year of reacting to, and attempting to influence, the rapid political change in the Middle East and North Africa, but their efforts are informed by differing motivations. Meanwhile the looming threat of Iran attaining nuclear weapons has brought greater urgency to efforts to enhance Gulf security, but also some disquiet in the Gulf about any possible US deal with Iran that would serve global non-proliferation interests but threaten their vital regional security interests.
  • Topic: Democratization, International Security, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, North Africa, North America
  • Author: Mahmoud Hamad
  • Publication Date: 05-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Egypt's judiciary has played a central role in the country's transition since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. The political forces that led the uprising agreed on almost nothing except their profound rejection of dictatorship, corruption, and injustice. The military generals who took over from Mubarak lacked the imagination or the will to set out a clear roadmap to democracy. Ultimately, it fell to the judiciary to shape many aspects of the transition. In the legally murky climate of the past two years, judges drew fire from forces across the political spectrum, issuing decisions affecting the public perception of their objectivity.
  • Topic: Democratization, Regime Change, Reform
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa
  • Author: Karim Mezran, Fadel Laman, Eric Knecht
  • Publication Date: 05-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Piecing together the nascent political picture in Libya is essential to understanding the current roadblocks to democracy. Unlike Egypt, no single party, force, or personality anchors the political scene. Unlike Tunisia, no coalition provides a gauge of the relative strength of political groups. In Libya, where parties were banned even before the reign of Muammar al-Qaddafi, post-revolution politics remain fluid, loyalties fleeting, and ideological fault lines less defined than in its North African neighbors. Nevertheless, ten months after the country's first free elections, an early snapshot of the contemporary political scene is coming into focus.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Democratization, Regime Change, Reform
  • Political Geography: Libya, North Africa, Tunisia