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Tunisia crisis to embolden ordinary Arabs, critics

Tunisia crisis to embolden ordinary Arabs, critics

Shock waves may rattle region's entrenched governments; Arabs share same grumbles over prices, jobs as Tunisians; Satellite TV, Internet highlight events across region.

January 16, 2011 10:08 by

The ousting of Tunisia’s president after widespread protests will embolden Arab opposition movements and ordinary people to challenge more vigorously entrenched governments across the Middle East.

In a region where power usually changes hands in carefully orchestrated transitions — and in several cases has not shifted for decades — the speed at which Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was pushed from office has sent shock waves.

Other Arab states may have more effective security forces or deeper pockets to respond to grumbling populations. They may also lack the feisty unions that sustained Tunisia’s protests.

But across the region public frustrations are the same as those that drove Tunisians to the street: soaring prices, not enough jobs and systems of government that offer no real democratic accountability.

“The revolt in Tunisia is a surprise on all levels. It shows nations can topple oppressive regimes. There will be a ripple effect across the Arab region,” said Abdelrahman Mansour, a 23-year-old Egyptian political activist.

Satellite channels like Al Jazeera, Facebook and Twitter mean Arabs around the region are watching Tunisia’s transformation live, and sharing ideas at the tap of a keyboard, which may inspire others to take up the gauntlet.

“The coverage of the fast-moving developments and the overthrow of the Ben Ali regime on Al Jazeera television brings this process into the living rooms of hundreds of millions of Arabs,” wrote Rami G. Khouri, a Beirut-based analyst, in an article published on syndication agency Agence Global.

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