The Arab Spring
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The Arab Spring

An Essay on Revolution and Constitutionalism

Antoni Abat i Ninet and Mark Tushnet

Approaching the concept of Islamic constitutionalism from a comparative perspective, this thought-provoking study by Antoni Abat i Ninet and Mark Tushnet uses traditional Western political theory as a lens to develop a framework for analyzing the events known as the ‘Arab Spring’. Writing with clarity and insight, the authors place Western and Arabic traditions into a constructive dialogue. They focus on whether we can develop a ‘theory of revolutions’ that helps us understand events occurring at divergent times at geographically separate locations.
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Chapter 4: The case of Tunisia

Antoni Abat i Ninet and Mark Tushnet


Chapters Four and Five deal with the cases of Tunisia and Egypt, which can be defined as successful revolutions because they end the rule of Presidents Ben Ali and Mubarak by peaceful means. A different and equally important question is whether we can define either of these cases as a successful transition to democracy or to liberal constitutionalism. Chapter Four is focused on Tunisia, the ground zero of the revolutionary wave in the Middle East and North Africa. The starting point is an analysis of the first constitution of independent Tunisia, adopted in 1959 after independence from France in 1956. The first section analyzes the transitional period from French colonial rule to self-rule. This transitional stage not only conditioned the process of state building, but also the constitutional, political, sociological, and economic arrangements of the new nation. This is a frequent occurrence in the post-colonial context. As in Morocco and Algeria, France tried to prevent self-determination, first by offering autonomy through the Franco-Tunisian Autonomy Conventions, then incentivizing the rivalry among the two most important figures of the Tunisian political transition to independence (Habib Bourguiba and Salah Ben Youssef), and finally maintaining political, military, and economic privileges in the new state. The first section also deals with the vital significance of the first constitutional text of the Protectorate, even before independence.

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