The transition to democracy can often be a messy process that is not easily explained. In “The Third Wave: Democratization of the Late Twentieth Century” by Samuel Huntington, the transition to democracy is outlined in three waves focusing on the significant amount of democratization after the year 1974. He argues that often the explanation for such transitions remains in the level of economic development that country experiences; also citing declining legitimacy of authoritarian regimes as a main factor as well.
Huntington follows the theory proposed by Lipset that economic development in fact correlates with democracy. The question remains whether economic growth instigates democracy or whether it only plays a role in the endurance of a democracy. The evidence brought forward by Huntington hints that it appears to plays a large role in both, but that seems to not be the case in many countries around the world.
For example in Tunisia, the poster child of the Arab Spring, the transition to democracy was anything but smooth, but compared to its neighbors Egypt and Libya it remains a success story for the modern transition to democracy. With the aid of the military, the Tunisian people ousted an oppressive authoritarian regime of Ben Ali in 2011. The economy in Tunisia was by no means rapidly growing before the revolts of the Arab Spring and still is not experiencing an influx of economic development, but yet there remains a healthy democracy.
Recent elections in Tunisia have led to an opposition party victory from the Ennahda party that gained power in 2011. The transition of power from one party to the opposing party remained relatively peaceful. Democracy remains stable in the hands of its new government. Unemployment is rising, but not necessarily the threat of a return to an authoritarian regime. Tunisia is a prime example that economic development and democracy do not always correlate and one can in fact exist without the other.