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At Birthplace of the Arab Spring, Discontent Opens a Door to the Past

At Birthplace of the Arab Spring, Discontent Opens a Door to the Past

Chaima Issa, a poet and the daughter of a former political prisoner, is determined to keep Tunisia’s revolution alive.

She is running as a candidate for a small democratic party in parliamentary elections next weekend in one of the most populous constituencies of the capital. A 34-year-old who wears purple-frame glasses, a tight white T-shirt and jeans, she is an outsider but a passionate one as she crisscrosses the old quarter of Tunis reaching out to voters.

Almost four years after a popular uprising that overthrew President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and set off the Arab Spring in 2011, Tunisians are grappling with price increases, unemployment and rising terrorism — and roundly blame their politicians for the mess. The frustration is such that people often say they wish for a return of the Ben Ali era.

Tunisia has been torn by ideological divisions between Islamists who won the first elections after the revolution in 2011 and secularists who led a protest movement against the Islamist government last year after the assassination of two members of Parliament. Now riding on the wave of discontent, former officials from the Ben Ali government, who are free to run for office for the first time since the uprising, are attempting a comeback.

It is a prospect that incenses Ms. Issa.

“It is horrible, shameful,” she said. “They are profiting from our revolution; they are picking our flowers. It is they who spilled our blood.”

In the capital’s old city recently, Ms. Issa found voters in an angry mood and vowing not to vote at all for the politicians, whom they clearly distrust. “All they want is a position, and then they never let go!” shouted one market worker striding past a group of workers from Ms. Issa’s National Democratic Alliance party who were wearing white party T-shirts and handing out leaflets and waving flags. “Long live Ben Ali!” shouted a vendor when he saw her party flags.

Tunisians will elect a new Parliament on Sunday, and then a month later vote for a new president, with a possible presidential runoff on Dec. 28. The elections will end a transitional period that has seen four interim governments since 2011.

Read More:At Birthplace of the Arab Spring, Discontent Opens a Door to the Past – NYTimes.com.

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