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.

In 2012, the United States created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to protect these young people from being deported. Yet just five years later, the program was rescinded, putting close to 700,000 DACA recipients at risk of being banished from the only home they've ever known. More than five dozen of these DACA recipients at risk are Microsoft employees. These young people contribute to the company and serve its customers. They help create products, secure services, and manage finances. And like so many young people across our nation, they dream of making an honest living and a real difference in the communities in which they reside. Yet they now live in uncertainty.

Microsoft has told its Dreamers that it will stand up for them along with all the nation's DACA recipients. It will represent them in court and litigate on their behalf. That's why Microsoft joined Princeton University and Princeton student Maria De La Cruz Perales Sanchez to file one of the three cases challenging the DACA rescission that was heard on Nov. 12 by the United States Supreme Court.

Read more on Microsoft On The Issues.

What do people think is driving the stock market's recent record high gains?


Well, there's really no precise answer, but analysts point to several factors. So, number one is strong third quarter earnings. Companies have reported stronger than expected results so far this season. The second is the jobs market. You saw the October jobs numbers exceed economists' expectations. And the third is the Federal Reserve cutting interest rates three times this year. That lowers borrowing costs for consumers and businesses and encourages them to spend more.

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In the predawn hours of Tuesday morning, Israel launched a precision attack in the Gaza Strip, targeting and killing a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) commander. In response, the terror group fired more than 220 rockets at southern Israel. Exchanges of fire have brought cities on both sides of the Gaza border to a standstill and at least 19 Palestinians are dead and dozens of Israelis wounded. With this latest escalation, Israel now faces national security crises on multiple fronts. Here's what's going on:

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