Tunisia Catches Protest Fever

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
July 3 2013 2:57 PM

Tunisia Catches Protest Fever

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Tunisians shout slogans against the ruling Ennahda Party during a protest in front of the Constituent Assembly on July 1, 2013 in Tunis. The protests echo those in Egypt, though they remain fairly small.

Photo by FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images

As tensions between the army, the demonstrators, and President Morsi rise to a fever pitch in Egypt, similar protests have emerged in Tunisia, where a group has gathered 200,000 signatures in opposition to the government and plans to take to the streets. Reuters reports:

Mark Joseph Stern Mark Joseph Stern

Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers science, the law, and LGBTQ issues.

The youthful, little known leaders of Tunisian Tamarud (Rebel) hope to galvanize opposition to their own Islamist-led government which, like Mursi, came to power after an uprising in 2011 swept an autocratic leader from office.
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Like its Egyptian namesake, the Tunisian group accuses the Islamists of trying to usher in a religious state that smothers personal freedoms and failing to drag the economy out of crisis.
Its members said they planned to call for mass protests after quickly gathering the signatures of about 200,000 people opposing the government...
The struggle for power has deepened animosity between Tunisia's Islamists and liberals since the ousting of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in the first Arab Spring uprising.

Conditions in Tunisia, however, are notably different from those in Egypt, calling into question the effectiveness of the protestors' ploy:

Tunisia's governing Islamist party Ennahda managed to head off growing street protests and appease secular-minded parties by ushering in a coalition government in March that included several independent ministers.
Ennahda has also accepted that sharia (Islamic law) is not mentioned in Tunisia's new constitution, a demand of secular politicians.

The success of the movement may depend upon the outcome of Egypt's protests.