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Tunisian Islamist leader takes victory lap in Washington

Compared to other Arab Spring states, Tunisia looks like a success, but its fragile democracy still faces economic and security challenges, acknowledges Islamist leader Rachid Ghannouchi.
Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the Islamist Ennahda movement, Tunisia's main Islamist political party, delivers a speech during a meeting regarding International Women's Day in Tunis March 10, 2013.  International Women's Day fell on March 8. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi (TUNISIA - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY) - RTR3ETM2

For a Washington eager to find a ray of hope within the post-Arab Spring’s gloom, the visit here this week of Rachid Ghannouchi, leader of the moderate Islamist Ennahda party of Tunisia, has been extremely welcome.

The avuncular Ghannouchi, in appearances at a half dozen Washington think tanks, has radiated optimism about Tunisia’s path toward democracy, based on consensus between the Islamist and secular elements of the political elite. In turn, he has been compared to an Arab “Mandela,” Vaclav Havel or even Thomas Jefferson, who could serve as a model and mediator elsewhere in the Middle East.

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