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The Arab Spring: Government Response

While the regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya were all overthrown as a result of the Arab Spring mass mobilizations, the response of each government was unique.


Following Ben Ali's departure on January 14th, a state of emergency was declared and a caretaker coalition government was created, which included members of Ben Ali's party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD), as well as opposition figures from other ministries. However, the five newly appointed non-RCD ministers resigned almost immediately. As a result of continued daily protests, on 27 January Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi reshuffled the government, removing all former RCD members other than himself, and on 6 February the former ruling party was suspended; later, on 9 March, it was dissolved. Following further public protests, Ghannouchi himself resigned on 27 February, and Beji Caid el Sebsi became Prime Minister. (More on Tunisia Revolution)

Rached Ghannouchi, leader of main Islamist party in Tunisia, warned against delaying elections and accused former elite of trying to regain their posts.
Ben Ali and his wife were sentenced to 35 years in jail, found guilty of theft and possession of large sums of foreign currency.

Tunisia's transition from authoritarian rule has been largely peaceful and Ennahda, Tunisia's moderate Islamist party which was banned under the former regime, won the country's first democratic elections at the end of last October. Party leader Rachid Ghannouchi pledged on Thursday the rights of every Tunisian would be protected by the new authorities.


On January 25th taking inspiration from Tunisia, Egyptians took to the streets against the regime of President Hosni Murabak. Security forces used tear gas and beatings and arrested hundreds of demonstrators.

Internet sites such as Twitter and Facebook were cut off within Egypt today as the government of President Hosni Mubarak tried to prevent social media from being used to foment unrest.(More on Egypt blocks social media)

After several days of protests and violent crackdown and failed attempts to remain in power Murabak resigned on February 4th and handed power to the military. The new ruling military council intended to retain power for six months or longer while elections were scheduled and they would rule by decree. The military appointed a new prime minister, Essam Sharaf called on protesters 'this white revolution' and vowed to rebuild Egypt in the wake of Hosni Mubarak regime's collapse.

In March, more than 77% of the expected 14 million-plus people who voted supported changes that provided a blueprint for parliamentary and presidential elections. Voting was mostly problem-free across the country.

After weeks of pressing demands from demonstrators, Mubarak was detained over corruption allegations and abuse of public funds. Later, he was charged with murder. In June Egypt took a 3 billion IMF loan package to stabilize the country. However, demonstrators continued to demonstrate on Tahrir Square and around the country accusing the ruling army of blocking the reform and being taken by conservative wings.

Human rights groups estimate that more than 12,000 civilians have been processed through military tribunals this year, including several protesters, bloggers and journalists who have publicly questioned the army's commitment to democratic reform. Egyptian junta pledges to free hundreds after damning prison letter is published

The Military announced first parliamentary elections to take place on November 28th. However opposition groups denounce that the rules will favor enclaves from the old regime to remain in power.


  • In response to the use of force against protesters, a number of senior Libyan public officials either renounced the Gaddafi government or resigned from their positions.
  • A number of senior military officials defected to the opposition
  • From 20 August onwards, diplomats of the United States, the United Kingdom and France began working on a UN resolution to release some of the frozen Libyan assets to the NTC
  • On Oct. 20, Colonel Qaddafi was killed as fighters gaind control of Surt.
  • The country was formally declared liberated three days later, setting in motion the process of creating a new constitution and an elected government.
  • Libya is currently governed by the National Transitional Council that emerged from the rebellion and has pledged to turn Libya into a pluralist, democratic state.
  • The new cabinet will govern until an election for a new national assembly scheduled for mid-2012.1
  • As in Egypt and Tunisia, the political challenges in Libya are not over. Said Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar: “In Libya everything is up for grabs... There is a lot of power to be had and if people want power they’re going to fight over it.”2

References and Resources

1 'Libya - Revolution and aftermath',, November 22, 2011
2 'Qaddafi Death Marks Start of Libya’s Transition, Challenges', Bloomberg Business Week, November 02, 2011