McCain, Tunisian Leader Urge US Aid to Sow Democracy in Middle East

He characterized the 2011 Tunisian revolution as a “peaceful and civilized” continuation of ancestral devotion to pluralistic society.

The revolt sparked pro-democracy movements around the Middle East in what came to be called the Arab Spring. While countries such as Egypt and Syria returned to authoritarianism and instability, Tunisia continues to embrace the liberal order, Chahed said.

The “full-fledged democracy” now marking Tunisia is rooted, Chahed said, in freedom of speech, freedom of belief, and freedom of entrepreneurship. He cited civil institutions as key to fostering dialogue and stabilizing the country.

Yet Tunisia’s liberal order faces challenges from economic turmoil, corruption, and terrorism. As chief of government, Chahed has implemented anti-corruption measures, which he called among the region’s most comprehensive and designed to advance economic growth and employ recent graduates.

Heritage’s 2017 Index of Economic Freedom, however, ranks Tunisia’s economy as “mostly unfree,” naming political instability, over-regulation, and rigid private sector markets as constraints to fully achieving the economic flourishing that democratic reforms made possible.