Changes and the Arab world

I really think it’s more complicated than it was in Eastern Europe.

What does the rebellion in Tunisia mean for the Arab world? Does anybody know for sure?

Roger Cohen from The New York Times argues that here:

Is Tunis the Arab Gdansk? Big things start small. In Poland, the firing in 1980 of Anna Walentynowicz, a shipyard worker, led to strikes and the formation of the grassroots Solidarity movement that set in motion the unraveling of the Soviet empire… The unseating through popular revolt of an Arab strongman is something new: It has already caused ripples from Amman to Cairo, from the Gulf to Tripoli — and it will cause more… Tunis can be Act One in the liberation of the Arab mind. That will also require the West to cast aside tired thinking. You can’t be a little bit democratic any more than you can be a little bit pregnant. Holding free elections in Tunisia requires the lifting of the ban on Islamist parties.

I’m not sure if Tunis is the Arab Gdansk.I think the circumstance were pretty different in Poland in 1980. The fight of Anna Walentynowicz was very important, but Poles had very deep tradition in opposing the communist regime, they were very well aware what kind of regime rules their country. As Padraic Kenney, Professor of History at Indiana University, said: No other country in the world staged consistent, repeated opposition to communism like the Poles did. No one even comes close!

Cohen is right when he urges the free elections in Tunisia. And he is right when he says you can’t be a little bit democratic. But it is also fair to admit some worries persist. Is the lifting of the ban on Islamist parties such a great idea? Even in the democracies are parties with the clear intention to overthrow democracy banned because free elections are in fact just the beginning of the democratic process.

With all the difficulties was the transition from the authoritarian regimes to democracy pretty smooth in Poland and in most countries of the CEE region (former Yugoslavia was of course a very  different story). The process was based also on the agreements between the new democratic forces and old rulers. We have been sometimes too soft on the  old rules but the vision was clear – change of the system and establishing of the democracy.

I would say this vision is less clear in the Arab world. How much is the Arab world ready for this? How much is the Arab world ready for the change and democracy? And for what kind of democracy? For a full democratic system or for the system which is little bit pregnant with democracy?

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