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On Dec. 17, 2010, Mohammad Bouazizi set himself alight in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia. Within weeks, the popular revolt triggered by Bouazizi's act had spread far beyond Tunisia, engulfing much of the Arab world.In Europe, Ukraine and other troubled countries, such as Bosnia, began their long and still incomplete transitions to democracy a quarter-century ago. The Arab world, by contrast, has logged a mere three years of transition – the blink of an eye in historical terms. After the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in 1923, two nation-states (Iran and Turkey) emerged, while the Arabs were distributed among 22 new countries, generally under British or French colonial domination.Tunisia adopted its new constitution on Jan. 27, thus clearing the way for what will be the most secular and fairest elections in any of the region's countries.More generally, lack of pluralism and the inability to share power are holding back the transitions. With the exception of Tunisia, this can be seen to varying degrees in all of the affected countries. Countries with homogenous societies, such as Tunisia, have suffered only minimal violence, unlike socially heterogonous countries, such as Syria.
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