DT reports Is Tunisia the first domino to fall? (Claire Spencer)
"If it were only Tunisia, the outside world might be excused for being slow to wake up to the potential consequences of the protests that led to last Friday's sudden ousting of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali from the presidency. The convulsion is now being described in terms of a "scenario" to be avoided elsewhere in the Arab world, with commentators looking around the region, notably to Tunisia's eastern neighbour Algeria, where riots over food prices have only just subsided, and towards Egypt, where recent attacks on the Christian Copts raised the spectre of deepening sectarian violence.
What is afoot in North Africa, and will it really infect the internal dynamics of other Arab states? On the face of it, the main spark for the Tunisian unrest was high unemployment, particularly among graduates, whereas in Algeria, it was the spike in the prices of cooking oil and sugar. Having reduced the taxes on both, the Algerian government has defused the tension for now, without addressing the underlying pressures of youth unemployment, underinvestment in poorer regions, and its own unaccountability to its citizens.
All these issues have their parallels in Tunisia, along with strains on living standards affecting the whole region. In 2008, a sudden, 30 per cent rise in the price of imported wheat provoked widespread bread riots in Egypt, and Jordan has recently seen protests over living costs too.
[...] More recently, the Tunisian economy has combined trade liberalisation and greater openness to the outside world out of necessity. Unlike its nearest neighbours, Tunisia cannot rely on oil and gas exports for 97 per cent of its foreign earnings, as do Libya and Algeria. The Tunisian state has had to import energy and attract foreign investment for its textile industry, offshore car-assembly plants and tourist developments.
Necessarily, this made it harder for Ben Ali to concentrate wealth, and hence power, in a few pairs of hands without increasing recourse to repression. When he and his in-laws siphoned off more than was acceptable, their departure was hastened by the combined weight of young protesters, trade unions, professional associations and senior military officers.
It is premature to expect this level of consensus to arise any time soon in the more densely populated and fragmented states of the Arab Middle East, above all in any of the oil-exporting states whose rulers keep a tight rein on national finances, as well as on the military.
[...] The immediate challenge facing the interim authorities in Tunisia is whether, after years of social control through repression, they are capable of opening up to the kind of power- and wealth-sharing needed to put the genie of popular protest back in the bottle. It may have to wait until the next generation of leaders. And, with so many other Arab leaders facing succession issues across the Middle East soon, that should give them all pause for thought."
On top of high unemployment, western biofuel legislation forcing food prices, artificially high oil prices and the military siding with the protesters probably made the difference between the protests becoming widespread and successful repression. Military support of a popular uprising is two edged. In a political vacuum military leaders have shown throughout history they are over-willing to don the mantle of political leadership.
When despots flee they usually go to where they have stashed the money defrauded from the country. Al Jazeera reports "...it appeared Ben Ali's aircraft had been en route to Paris, but Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland, reporting from the French capital, said that Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, had refused to welcome Ben Ali following crisis negotiations with his prime minister."
If the stash is in a French bank it should be returned to the Tunisians.
Staying with dictatorships, recent articles of note from Brussels Journal:
The EC dictatorship covets Switzerland['s gold] and threatens to force membership against popular will.
The Gluttons Got Inside the Cookie Jar
And in "The Lights Are Going Out in Denmark", (Save Our [freedom of] Speech)
A reflection on the unholy alliance of the EC and the islamic brotherhood ("Since the 1980s, as a result of liberal EU asylum policies, a tolerant political climate and even legalistic protections for terrorists, European elites have facilitated the local and transnational advancement of politically extreme Islamists in their midst – groups that directly challenge commonly accepted understandings of immigration, integration and assimilation. These multinational groupings of political dissidents and radical theocrats are largely composed of men expelled from the Arab states because their opinions were too extreme. Many are wanted for terrorism (indeed, the Muslim Brotherhood has been outlawed in Egypt) or other crimes, but are able to remain in Europe and claim political asylum precisely because they face the death penalty or possible torture in their homelands." Link).
The imposition of sharia law in Denmark is discussed. The imposition is much further advanced than in the UK.
London 2006. More like this Mohammed Cartoons - Muslim Reactions
Gorgle obviously supports cartoon criticism, a search for "mohammed cartoon" returned 101,000 results. A twice-weekly publication, Jesus and Mo shares piss taking equally between the two main superstitions. I visit often just for a chuckle, latest offering here.