Magharebia (Washington DC)

15 January 2013

Tunisians Mark Revolution Anniversary

Tunis — Amid heightened political tension, Tunisians on Monday (January 14th) tried to find unity in celebrating the anniversary of the uprising that sparked the Arab Spring.

But two years after the ouster of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the glow of the revolution has faded. Youth socio-economic demands have yet to be met as debate over the constitution has foundered on deep political differences.

"There is really no reason to celebrate, because nothing has been achieved so far," Aymen Sliti, 24, told Magharebia as the festivities unfolded on Bourguiba Avenue. "Security is lacking, and we face escalating extremism and violence, political conflict, fleeing investors and the bankruptcy of the state treasury."

His friend Souha Mountadhar, 23, had a similar opinion. "Two years after it erupted, we stand today witness to the theft of the revolution by the political elite that is clearly after spoils rather than addressing the problems of the people and the advancement of the country."

"What we fear the most in future is to have to start fighting to preserve our previous gains and rights made over the years, rather than acquiring the rights to development, dignity and life," Mountadhar said.

Banker Abdeljalil Amdoun described the future of the country as "uncertain" due to the stalled progress on constitution-writing.

The economic situation is marked by worsening youth unemployment, which had surged to 18 per cent, declining investment and rising inflation.

Popular Front spokesman Hamma Hammami said that Tunisia risks a "financial collapse within six months if the government does not take decisive actions".

Tunisians need to unite around common challenges, politicians reminded on Monday.

In his speech, Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali vowed to redouble efforts to build harmony among the political and social forces in the country and expand the ruling coalition. He also promised to make a greater effort to boost economic growth, stressing that Tunisia will not go backward.

For his part, Constituent Assembly chief Mustapha Ben Jaafar promised that the next constitution, expected to be debated soon, would safeguard the goals of the revolution, including the establishment of a democratic state and modalities for the peaceful transfer of power.

The celebration of the second anniversary of the revolution witnessed the signing of the first-ever social pact between the government and the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT).

"The goal of the social pact is to promote a social dialogue that is organised and on-going between the government, the General Labour Union and employers in order to ensure social peace and stability," Social Affairs Minister Khalil Zawya said.

According to Jebali, "social dialogue represents one of the elements of political stability, social harmony and economic growth and the best way to improve the situation of the country."

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