France: Egypt should look to Tunisia's example

Tunisia kicked off the Arab Spring pro-democracy uprisings by overthrowing its dictator in Jan. 2011

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Egypt should look to Tunisia's example in building a democracy after uprisings that shook both countries, France’s president said Friday.

Tunisia kicked off the Arab Spring pro-democracy uprisings by overthrowing its dictator in Jan. 2011, with Egypt following suit just a month later. Both countries have since been mired in difficult democratic transition, with a military coup in Egypt overthrowing an elected Islamist president.

“I think of what is going on in Tunisia because three years ago, the Arab Spring was born there. Today there is a new constitution which is in the process of being adopted,” said French President Francois Hollande at his annual speech about global diplomacy.

“This example could inspire other countries: I think of Egypt where there has been violence but the objectives should be the same - finding a democratic path where the voice of everyone is respected.”

Egyptians recently voted for a new constitution - drafted by a committee dominated by liberals appointed by the military-backed government to replace the one passed in 2012 by the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government, which was later overthrown by the military.

The two-day vote took place in a climate of fear and paranoia, with authorities, the mostly pro-military media and a significant number of Egyptians showing little or no tolerance for dissent. Campaigning for a “no” vote risked arrest by the police. Egyptians who have voiced their opposition to the charter, or even just parts of it, are quickly labeled as traitors.

Tunisia’s constitution has followed a much longer path and has been two years in the making by an elected constitutional assembly.

After many delays amid political wrangling between the various parties, the document is being voted on article by article and is expected to be approved by next week.

While Islamists dominated Tunisia’s post-revolution elections, as in Egypt, they had a better record of compromising with secular opposition parties.

After the assassination of a left-wing opposition politician provoked a political crisis, the Islamist-dominated government agreed to step down in favor of a caretaker administration to prepare the way for new elections.