Small Country, Big Story: Tunisia Edition

We’ve written a lot in recent months about how and why democracy is losing its luster globally, as people grow frustrated with dysfunctional governments and social polarization. Well, over the weekend, Tunisians cast ballots in the first municipal elections in their country since the overthrow of despot Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 sparked the Arab Spring.


These long-postponed local votes were meant to be a major democratic milestone in a country whose people have long chafed against highly centralized rule. Thousands of candidates registered from dozens of parties, as well as independents. All good news. But in the end, barely a third of voters showed up. What’s going on?

Of the countries that went through the 2011 Arab Spring, Tunisia is the only one that has managed to achieve and maintain a democracy–a remarkable achievement given that Egypt is a dictatorship again, Libya is a badly fractured and enfeebled state, and Syria has seen seven years of bloodletting.

But Tunisians are losing faith in the promise of their democracy. Why? Economic growth is stagnant, youth unemployment tops 30 percent, and austerity policies meant to improve things over the long term have visited fresh pain on the population. Meanwhile, government dysfunction, failure to tackle corruption, and gaping disparities in regional wealth are fanning broader discontent. Some worry that nostalgia for the Ben Ali days is rising, and disillusioned young men have joined the ranks of ISIS at the highest per capita rate of any country in the world.

Although a slim majority stills sees representative democracy as the ideal system, more than 80 percent of Tunisians say the country is going in the wrong direction, and barely a third say they are satisfied with how democracy is working for them right now.


How will our cities and lives change in the future? What about a structure with a roller skating rink above a swimming pool, made out of transparent solar panels that power the entire park? This was the innovation invented by Eni's young researchers based on Luminescent Solar Concentrators, developed through Eni's research.

Watch the latest episode of Funny Applications, Eni's video series that imagines new uses for technology.

For 30 years, citizens of Hong Kong have gathered in Victoria Park on the evening of June 4 to honor the peaceful protesters massacred in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on that date in 1989. It has been the only public Tiananmen commemoration permitted on Chinese soil.

This year, the park was surrounded by barricades to keep people out. The officially stated reason for the shut-down? Crowds spread coronavirus. (In this city of more than 7 million, COVID has so far killed four people.)

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In an interview with GZERO World host Ian Bremmer, Hong Kong lawmaker Dennis Kwok, an outspoken pro-democracy advocate, expresses his concerns that the current "draconian" laws China's leadership is forcing upon his city has expedited the end of the "one country, two systems" policy established in 1997.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Big news, of course, that former Secretary of Defense Mattis comes out with a public statement basically calling Trump's rule, his actions, unconstitutional and unfit for office, more divisive than any president he's ever seen.

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French protests over racial injustice: The George Floyd protests in the United States have sparked solidarity demonstrations around the world, with people flocking to US embassies in Berlin, London and elsewhere to express their outrage. But they have also inspired other countries to reexamine racial justice within their own societies. In France, where street demonstrations are practically a national pastime, thousands of people have gathered in support of the family of Adama Traoré, a 24-year old black man who died in police custody back in 2016. At least 20,000 Parisians demonstrated Wednesday, despite coronavirus bans on public gatherings. Protesters adopted similar language to the Floyd protests, demanding accountability for the officers who violently pinned down Traoré during a dispute over an identity check, leading to his death. Renewed focus on this case, which has become a potent symbol of police brutality in France, comes as coronavirus lockdowns have recently stoked tensions between the police and the mostly-minority residents of Paris' banlieues (low-income suburbs).

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