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Main focus of Friday, February 8, 2013

Assassination leads to unrest in Tunisia

The trade unions and opposition called a general strike for today, Friday. (© dapd)

The assasination of opposition politician Chokri Belaid has triggered protests, some of them violent, against the government of the Islamist Ennahda party. Commentators say the unrest poses a risk to the country's economic recovery but still believe in the new leadership's capacity for democracy.

La République des Pyrénées - France

Tunisia a laboratory of democracy

Tunisia is the democratic laboratory of the Arab World, the regional paper La République des Pyrénées writes: "All the Cassandras of this world have never stopped promising the end of romantic illusions and the advent of a theocracy along Iranian lines. ... But what's happening in Tunisia puts the lie to their prophesies. Because the country is not just the theatre of violent protests, it is - far more than any other Arab country - the laboratory of a new stage in the Arab revolutions. Of course it's to be hoped that this won't end in a bloodbath or civil war, although this can't be ruled out! ... What is at stake is the future of democracy on Islamic territory, and the viability of a government that had already been questioned before Chokri Belaid's assassination. This political murder served to hasten the prime minister's decision [to dissolve the government]." (08/02/2013)

La Stampa - Italy

Arab Spring will bear fruit eventually

Tunisia's ruling party Ennahda rejected Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali's initiative for dissolving the government and forming a cabinet of technocrats on Thursday. Jebali's proposal can nonetheless be seen as a positive sight, the liberal daily La Stampa : "It's true that the Arab Spring is taking its time to bear fruit. ... But besides the advance of the Islamists and the setback suffered by the democrats there are also some positive signs in the countries where the revolts broke out. The mass protests in Tunis, Sidi Bouzid and Monastir, for example, which have forced government circles to take action. ... Revolutions break out and then start stalling, history has shown this. The French Revolution took 82 years, including two years of the Jacobin reign of terror, two coups and a long phase of restoration before it became an example for democracy." (08/02/2013)

Süddeutsche Zeitung - Germany

Tunisians call for second revolution

The huge frustration of the citizens of Tunisia is understandable given that the legacy of the country's past poses a great obstacle to political change, the left-liberal daily Süddeutsche Zeitung contends: "The protests against the new rulers continue in all of the states of the region because the political transition is taking longer than voters can bear. The legacy of the past dictatorships weighs too heavily on these countries. The economies of the autocrats cannot be reformed without social cuts, the new leaders are also becoming corrupt, and the masses can't take any more cuts. If it comes to a second uprising, it will be a revolution of hunger. In addition the conflict between the Islamists and the secular-minded continues to grow. The bearded ones were radicalised in the jails of the former regime. They resisted torture and don't want to share power now - even though this is the basis of democracy. Until the Islamists understand that, the calls for a second revolution will not fade." (08/02/2013)

Die Presse - Austria

North Africa's new rulers put to the test

Whether the new rulers in Tunisia and Egypt will be able to ensure democratic stability depends on their economic policies, the liberal-conservative daily Die Presse argues: "The new rulers in Tunis and Cairo were elected. A large majority of the population supports them. How long this will last depends on whether they manage to get the economy going and create jobs. The street clashes in Tunis and Cairo are counter-productive. Violence and instability frighten away the foreign investors and tourists. An end to international tourism would fit in well with the concept of certain Salafist groups. ... However Ennahda and the Muslim Brothers are more pragmatic, and will do all they can to ensure that the tourist industry doesn't collapse. How far this pragmatism goes will become clear at the latest with the next elections. Then the new rulers will be put to the test because they will have to prove that they are willing to allow a fair election - and if necessary accept defeat." (08/02/2013)

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