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As Tunisia Rebuilds, Hope is Ever-Present

As a civil war rages next door and as protests and clashes in Bahrain and Yemen gobble up media attention, news from Tunisia – the originator of the Middle East reform movements – has been scarce of late. But this article from The Washington Post sheds some light on what life on the ground is like in a post-revolutionary state. It seems to be a strange mixture of fear, giddiness, anxiety and euphoria as citizens try to determine what shape the country will take now that the regime of strongman Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali is over. But whatever the emotion, there appears to be a steely resolve to ensure reform efforts are no pyrrhic victory. Perhaps the most illuminating comment in this respect is this:

After watching their uprising spark similar ones across North Africa and the Middle East, many Tunisians want to make their post-revolution restructuring just as exemplary


Changes to Egyptian Constitution Approved

41% of Egyptian voters approved changes to Egypt’s constitution this weekend that set in place some of the reforms demanded by groups integral to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. The changes call for legislative elections in June followed by presidential elections in August. Among other changes is an amendment that limits presidential terms to two four year blocs (designed to prevent any other instance of one-man, long-term rule, like Mubarak’s). Some commentators believe the constitutional changes favor established political organizations like The Muslim Brotherhood, as the upcoming elections leave little time for new groups to emerge and thus effectively campaign for power.

Changes On The Way in Saudi Arabia

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia will address his nation tomorrow, promising modest reforms and measures to increase social welfare, such as bolstering food subsidies. Among the reforms will be the sacking of the ministers of defense, higher education and religious affairs. A vaguely defined drive to stamp out corruption will also be proposed. Although Saudi Arabia has not seen anywhere near the intensity of protests impacting its neighbor, Bahrain, experts believe these directives are designed to head off any form of popular uprising from the start. Abdullah is thought to be ailing, haven recently undergone major surgery. Still, the 86 year old king is rather popular, although the monarchy as a whole is not.

State of Emergency Declared in Bahrain

The king of Bahrain has declared a state of emergency in Bahrain for three months, putting the tiny Arab kingdom under the rule of martial law. The move comes on the heels of  the arrival of foreign troops from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Gulf states – a development designed to stamp out the anti-regime, Shia-dominated reform protests that have enveloped the nation in the past weeks. The opposition has responded to the monarchy’s actions by blockading roads leading into the financial district of the capital, Manama. This link will take you to a BBC video describing events from the ground.

New Future for Yemen?

A referendum will determine a new Yemeni constitution that promises to guarantee the separation of executive and legislative powers. Yemen’s president Ali Abdullah Saleh announced the proposed reform that would move the country closer to parlimentary – rather than its current autocratic – rule. But opposition groups have apparently rejected Saleh’s overtures, holding firm to their demand that he relinquish power immediately. Saleh insists that he will finish his term as president in 2013. Like many countries in the Middle East, anti-regime protests have rocked Yemen over the last month.