In Tunisia, a new surge of violent protests in late February – six weeks after former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled – left five dead and prompted the resignation of Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi. Protesters had demanded that he, as one of the last high-profile remnants of the old guard, step down, or their break with the past would not be complete.
"I am not ready to be the person who takes decisions that would end up causing casualties," said Mr. Ghannouchi, who had been prime minister for 11 years under Mr. Ben Ali. Yet a senior trade union leader complained that the immediate appointment of Ghannouchi's replacement – the 84-year-old former Foreign Minister Beji Caid Essebsi – was antidemocratic. How could Tunisia pull out of crisis, he asked, "if the president does not take at least 24 hours for consultations."
In Egypt, likewise, there have been moments of prerevolution déjà vu. Security forces tried to break up an overnight reform rally in Tahrir Square, truncheons flailing as if the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak weeks earlier had never occurred. A military council has taken interim control – despite some calls for a predominantly civilian five-member presidential council – but has yet to say exactly when it will end Egypt's 30-year-long state of emergency, nor offer a precise timetable for making a new constitution and electing a new parliament and president.
"Part of this moving forward is, 'Where are we, really, now?'" asks James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute (AAI) and author of "Arab Voices: What They Are Saying to Us, and Why It Matters." "If all that happened was Ben Ali is gone, the party is dissolved, and the military is in control of Tunisia; or Mubarak is gone, his party is hollowed out a bit, but the military is still in control – then maybe nothing happened at all."