Arab Spring is now known more for instability than stability, mayhem than democracy. But even as countries like Egypt, Syria and Libya struggle for normality and peace, let alone democracy, Tunisia has emerged as a beacon of hope which has gone rather unnoticed. Tunisians yesterday marked the third anniversary of the self-immolation of a young street vendor that sparked the Arab Spring, but they also had a reason to celebrate. By announcing a new compromise prime minister, the country has broken new ground in this tumultuous region and shown that even long-time enemies – Islamists and the secular old guard – can unite in the interests of the country.
According to the deal reached this week between the two sides, Mehdi Jomaa, 50, an independent technocrat, was picked to lead a caretaker government until new elections can be held next year. The agreement has pulled the country back from the front and comes after months of intense negotiations between former prime minister Beji Caid Essebsi, who leads a new secular-minded political party called Nidaa Tounes, and Rachid Gannouchi, the leader of the Islamist party Ennahda. Reports say that since the political crisis started this year, triggered by two high-profile political assassinations, the two leaders have met at least six times, which is something unheard of in other Arab Spring countries where hostility between rival parties has been so deep-rooted that they are more focused on political annihilation of each other.
Jomaa has a huge responsibility of restoring peace and stability, bringing economic growth and instilling confidence among people to prepare the country for elections. The fact that he is a consensus candidate makes him supremely eligible to perform such duties. He is known to be extremely pragmatic, does not belong to any political party and has a calm approach to government. He is also an efficient communicator who had worked with western multinationals.
Now that a prime minister is in charge, all political parties must work hard for the conduct of free and fair polls. All sides have enough time to go to the people with their policies and agendas, and for the same reason, when the elections are held, the people’s verdict must be respected, whether they choose to give power to Islamists or secularists. If the current Tunisian experiment succeeds, it will have a positive influence on other Arab Spring countries. Egypt needs guidance to overcome the current crisis, and Libya too is looking for succour. Ennahda has set an example by agreeing to be led by a consensus candidate. That has saved the country from another revolution like in Egypt and they will be rewarded by the people for their exemplary behaviour. Consensus always leads to success. Confrontation brings disaster•