chapter  3
Ben Ali’s collapse and the origins of the Jasmine Revolution
Pages 12

Pent-up frustration and spontaneity certainly played important roles in Tunisia's uprising. But Tunisia also reminds us that authoritarian governments can endure for very long periods of time. Many of the social and political tensions that wracked Tunisia erupted in a conflict that presaged the Jasmine Revolution in important respects. By 2010, many Tunisians felt that Ben Ali's rule had "created lots of losers and too few winners". In the early 1990s, with civil war raging in Algeria and Islamist activism growing at home, many Tunisians had tolerated Ben Ali's authoritarianism as the price of growth and stability. A decade later, the economy had stalled and most Tunisians believed that repression had eliminated any meaningful Islamist threat. In some regions and sectors of the economy, the cumulative effects of government reforms also eroded household incomes. Since the Protectorate, phosphate mining had been the economic backbone of towns like Gafsa, Redayef, Metlaoui, and Gabes.