Saturday, August 17, 2013

Tunisia and 'the Egyptian Model'

Here is an excerpt from my recent analysis in the Cairo Review:

In both Tunisia and Egypt, the state’s most important and entrenched institution remains the security establishment. In the case of Egypt, this means the army. It wields enormous political power, has close relations with the U.S., oversees the complicated relations with Israel, and maintains interests in virtually all sectors of the economy. Presidents Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak were all military men, and it seems that General Abdul-Fattah El-Sisi seeks to follow in their footsteps.
In Tunisia it is the Interior Ministry that retains potentially decisive power. This is the case particularly with the police, which was led at one point by Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, before his ascendance to the presidency. Tunisia, under his rule, was rightly characterized as a police state. What we know of the Interior Ministry is more limited than what we know of the Egyptian army, and Human Rights Watch has described it as “a black box,” However, tiny slivers of light have begun to emerge, and the role of the ministry and the police in the current standoff between pro- and anti-government protesters may be key to understanding why Tunisia has not followed Egypt’s lead.

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