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NightWatch 20111028


For the night of 28 October 2011

Tunisia: On Friday in Sidi Bouzid, the southern Tunisian town where the Arab uprising began last December, the town erupted in anti-government violence. Despite a "revolution" that swept away the country's rulers and installed a new Islamist leadership, the locals said nothing really has changed.

Local candidates were elected to national office but had been disqualified from talking office by the national election commission. The locals were promised by received no benefits from the overthrow of Ben Ali's regime. The new political elite behaved like the old political elite and failed to deliver promised jobs and better housing.

As a result, the protestors burned down the police station, the local government building and a court house. The police ran away. A handful of soldiers showed up but said they did not know what they were supposed to do, so they let the buildings be set afire.

Comment: The riots in Sidi Bouzid are a powerful proof that a revolution has not begun yet in Tunisia. The elections reinforced the ancient regime, without Ben Ali. No change of system has taken place. The rioters in Sidi Bouzid have made the point that the Arab uprising in Tunisia is a fraud in terms of jobs and housing, food and fuel prices and availability.

The Sidi Bouzid riots also are a reminder that the Arab Spring began over economic gripes. It never was about politics, human rights, individual freedoms or voting rights or even good government. The economic issues were the price and availability of bread, jobs, and the price and availability of gasoline. The people demanded bread and gasoline but were given elections, with bewildering consistency and with the cheerleading of Western officials.

The new regimes are facing the fact that elections do not create wealth, jobs, bread, or gasoline. As a result in Tunisia, the riots will be the first test of the responsiveness of an elected Islamic-led coalition government to real problems of life and death among people who did not vote for it. The Ennahda leaders appear less capable than the dictator they replaced.

The rioters in Sidi Bouzid think nothing has changed and their situation might have gotten worse.

End of NightWatch for 28 October.

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