This past Tuesday Tunisia had their very first democratic election for members to join their National Assembly, with what appears to be a majority lead with the Ennahda Party. Although it is a moderate Islamist party, the Assembly will be comprised of both secular and religious parties. The victory of the Ennahda or Renaissance raises both praise and suspicion for the Tunisian people. While many see them as trustworthy and fair, others are worried they may hinder a progressive nation that has promoted equality.
Their cautionary approach is justified – they haven’t had a free election since 1956, and they have been living under the dictatorship of Zine el Abadine Ben Ali since then. Not to mention, the swift and violent revolution they had gone through earlier in the year. No one wants to go through that just to go back to living under a regime of extremist rulers. In relation to the Ennahda Party, some fear a hidden agenda is behind the majority lead, but they continually persist in saying they do not wish to hinder political progress or assume total control as a political leader. During the dictatorship of Zine el Abadine Ben Ali, the Ennahda party was strictly outlawed and members were imprisoned and often tortured. They continue to reassure the public that they will not turn to extremist policies, and they will be creating a coalition with the two leading secular political parties, although the Ennahda will have the majority vote over important political decisions.
Still, this is a historic week for the people of Tunisia as they are progressing democratically. And there were several factors that contributed to the revolutionary progress that has gotten Tunisia to this point. A major cultural force promoting political progress could be found all throughout the nation, and especially through its music. Rap has been a form of some political commentary throughout the years, and some rappers like Balti have criticized their government through their music. Last year, this would not have been allowed under the dictatorship; indeed, rapping used to be a risky business, with rappers being thrown in prison if they were discovered by the government. And yet they have acted as a driving force towards rousing people to speak out against the dictatorship, have been a major part of the great social upheaval that occurred in Tunisia.
This is a great example of the power of the arts being used in a socially constructive manner and allowing for further democratic freedoms such as freedom of expression should not be dismissed. There is a sense of empowerment, as well as educational and humanitarian respects that can and has led to the constructive utilization of the arts. Anyone actively involved within the creative industry doesn’t need to be convinced of the potential and meaningful importance the arts can convey. But this is a great example of it being used and respected well. Hopefully under the new moderate Islamic democracy, the people of Tunisia and its ruling government won’t shun the importance and the power of the arts for the younger generations.