Tunisia: Regime Remnants, Women and the Clown - Tunisia's Revolution Three Years On

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Legitimacy (shar'iyya) is another notion that has taken on new meanings since 2011 and has been used in four variations: revolutionary, electoral, popular and consensual.

These are often seen in hierarchical and competing orders.

At the beginning, claims to revolutionary legitimacy (shar'iyya thawriyyah) helped allow a number of measures go through which may have been illegal or inconceivable in another context. It licensed the creation of new institutions and committees to run the affairs of state and organise a transition.

In October 2011, electoral legitimacy (shar'iyya intikhabiyya) took over as the supreme value in running the country, giving the winning Islamist party al-Nahda and its allies relatively free reign.

This was soon challenged too though after a year passed without the Constituent Assembly finishing the drafting of the constitution.

A new window for contestation opened along with a return to the legitimacy of the street and people (shar'yya sha'biyyah). Demonstrations took place, including massive ones in August 2013.

As crisis threatened the country, key civil society organisations - including the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), Tunisia's most powerful trade union - led the way in establishing a sense of consensual legitimacy (shar'iyya tawafuqiyyah) in the spirit of which political parties agreed a new power-sharing arrangement and road map.

The outcome of this has sped up the constitutional process and most recently imposed an 'independent' prime minister to replace the elected one.

Remnants, justice and the clown

Looking now to the fate of old regime figures, the azlam (stooges) and fulool (remnants) have had a very revealing journey since 2011.

The initial revolutionary drive led to the banning of the former ruling party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD), while some key figures were arrested and some were barred from running in elections. However, this experienced cadre soon turned from being seen as a Trojan Horse to potential allies.

Some of them formed their own parties, others joined the newly-established Nidaa Tunis, while others were courted and hired by the ruling al-Nahda. Three years on, former regime loyalists have several small parties of their own, while several ministers have been set free. They are azlam no more.

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