Beware, dictatorship can return

 

Issandr El Amrani at The Arabist was in Tunisia for the country’s first-ever free elections — I wrote about those results here — and points out some of the ingenious get-out-the-vote strategies developed by Tunisian activists.  The video above (it’s in Arabic but easy to follow because its basically wordless and the punchline is subtitled) was shot with a hidden camera in the Tunis port district of La Goulette, recording public reaction to the re-installation of an enormous portrait of the deposed president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.  Chilling, but very clever.

One great challenge with popular revolutions is that after the great massing of crowds brings down the dictator apathy can set in, either because it seems the battle has already been won or because so little appears to have changed.  Egypt is struggling with this now, as the military council left in power by Mubarak has started killing civilians (as happened in Maspero on 9 October) in order to stifle further reform ahead of its forthcoming and badly organized elections.  In Tunisia, where the efforts to build a true democracy have been much more serious and professional, the challenge was to inspire voters to go to the polls.  It worked: turnout in the elections was over 90% of registered voters.

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