Almost nine years after its Jasmine revolution, which precipitated a chain reaction of revolts in the Arab world, Tunisia is seen as the only one among the ten countries directly impacted by the Arab Spring to have succeeded in establishing a formal democracy and, as such, has been accepted into the world’s club of democratic countries. It is now poised for its third round of presidential elections since the 2010-2011 revolution. However, with a weak economy and an increasingly restive population struggling with poverty, and being surrounded by countries that are politically unstable and with the very notion of liberal democracy in serious jeopardy worldwide, how long can Tunisia maintain the trappings of a formal democracy if it does not at the same time alleviate the serious socio-economic problems that afflict its society? In this interview, Khalil Bendib posed these questions to scholar Mohammed Hammami, who spoke to us from his home in Tunis.
Host: Khalil Bendib
Khalil Bendib is an awardwinning political cartoonist. His cartoons are featured in over two thousand small and midsize newspapers across the country, including many Muslim, African American, Arab, and other progressive publications and websites, and can be viewed at Muslim Observer, corpwatch.org, otherwords.org, and his own cartoon website, Bendib. He is the cohost of Voices of the Middle East and North African on KPFA Radio in Berkeley.
Guest: Mohamed-Dhia Hammami
Mohamed-Dhia Hammami is a scholar at Wesleyan University in the College of Social Studies and Government. He previously studied mathematics in the University of Tunis and statistics and data analysis in the University of Carthage. Since the Tunisian revolution of 2011 that led to the Arab Uprisings and until coming to Wesleyan University in 2016, Mohamed had a diverse professional experience that allowed him to immerse fully in the Tunisian political sphere and develop an advanced understanding of post-revolution politics in Tunisia. His research interests include, but are not limited to, social contestation, authoritarianism, corruption, and political ideologies. Mohamed is currently working on two different research projects. First, he is exploring corruption in Tunisia through a quantitative analysis of Ben Ali family network. Secondly, he is focusing on the emergence of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) as a major political actor in post-revolutionary Tunisia. The latter is supported by a Davenport Study Grant from the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life at Wesleyan University.