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Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Tunisian mediators for aiding country’s transition to democracy

The Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet won the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize for its role in the building of a pluralistic democracy” in the country following the Jasmine Revolution in 2011, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced Friday.

“The Arab Spring originated in Tunisia in 2010 to 2011, but quickly spread to a number of countries in North Africa and the Middle East,” said chairwoman of the five-member Nobel committee Kaci Kullmann Five. “In many of these countries, the struggle for democracy and fundamental rights has come to a standstill or suffered setbacks. Tunisia, however, has seen a democratic transition based on a vibrant civil society with demands for respect for basic human rights.”

The Tunisian quartet, formed in the summer of 2013, comprises four organizations: the Tunisian General Labour Union; the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts; the Tunisian Human Rights League; and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers.

Five, who announced the winner from Oslo, added that the quartet’s guidance allowed Tunisia to form a constitutional system of government amid a period of social unrest after protesters overthrew its longtime dictator in 2011. Despite some setbacks, namely terrorist attacks from Islamic extremists, Tunisia has maintained its grasp on democracy. The country held peaceful democratic elections at the end of 2014.

“The quartet paved the way for a peaceful dialogue between the citizens, the political parties and the authorities, and helped to find consensus-based solutions to a wide range of the challenges across political and religious divides,” Five said. She added that it was the committee’s hope that this year’s prize could “be an inspiration to all those who seek to promote peace and democracy in the Middle East, North Africa and the rest of the world.”

Congratulations began pouring in from Twitter:

Houcine Abassi, secretary general of the Tunisian General Labour Union, told the Associated Press he was “overwhelmed” by the unexpected prize. Adam Smith, chief scientific officer at Nobel Media, talked to Wided Bouchamaoui, president of Tunisia’s Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts and one of the quartet’s members.

Speculation this year placed Pope Francis and German Chancellor Angela Merkel as top contenders for the prize. Selecting Merkel would have highlighted the chancellor’s open-door policy to the influx of migrants fleeing war in Syria and other countries.

The quartet is the 96th recipient of the award since it began in 1901. The prize includes eight million Swedish kronor, or approximately $975,000.

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