Tunisian interim President Fouad Mebazaa and Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi resigned from the ruling party, state media announced Tuesday just hours after several ministers quit over the inclusion of party members in the new government.
Key figures in Tunisian politics
Fouad Mebazaa, interim president
The 78-year-old speaker of parliament was sworn in as Tunisia’s interim president a day after Tunisian strongman Ben Ali fled for Saudi Arabia. A veteran politician, Mebazaa is the chairman of the ruling RDC (Democratic Constitutional Rally) party. (Photo: AFP)
Mohamed Ghannouchi, prime minister
Nicknamed "Tunisia's computer,” Ghannouchi is considered the architect of Ben Ali’s economic policies. A former finance minister, he became PM in 1999. A technocrat and close Ben Ali associate, Ghannouchi served as acting president for a day following Ben Ali's ouster.
Kamel Morjane, foreign minister
A seasoned diplomat, Foreign Minister Kamel Morjane, 62, is considered a “new man” in politics. His political career began in 2005, when he was appointed defence minister. Educated abroad, Morjane worked previously for UNHCR.(Photo: AFP)
Najib Chebbi, PDP founder
A prominent opposition figure, Najib Chebbi founded, in 1983, the Progressive Socialist Rally, which was renamed the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) in 2001. He was appointed minister of regional development in the transitional unity government. (Photo: AFP)
Maya Jribi, PDP general secretary
In 2006, Maya Jribi became the PDP’s secretary-general, the first woman to hold such a post in Tunisia. Jibri, 50, is a biologist by training. Under Ben Ali, the PDP was legally recognized but it had no representatives in parliament. (Photo: AFP)
Mustapha Ben Jaafar, FTDL secretary general
Mustapha Ben Jaafar was vice president of the Tunisian League of Human Rights before helping found the opposition party FTDL(Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties) in 1994. He was appointed transitional health minister in the new unity government. (Photo: AFP)
Ahmed Ibrahim, founder and leader of Ettajdid Party
A former senior member of the Tunisian Communist Party, Ahmed Brahim, 64, is one of the founders of the Ettajdid (Renewal) party. He ran for president in the 2009 election. Ibrahim was appointed minister for higher education in the national unity government.(Photo:AFP)
Hamma Hammami, spokesperson, Tunisian Workers’ Communist Party
A prominent opposition figure, Hamma Hammami, 59, was jailed several times for his campaign against Ben Ali’s power. He spent part of his life in hiding. The Communist Party, banned in Tunisia, was not invited to negotiations to form a unity government.
Rashid Ghannouchi, leader, Islamist Ennahdha (Renaissance) Party
Leader of the Islamist Ennahdha (Renaissance) party, Rashid Ghannouchi has lived in exile in London since 1989. Following Ben Ali’s ouster, Ghannouchi, 69, says he is a moderate and advocates the Islamist and democratic principles of Turkey’s ruling AKP party.
Tunisian interim President Fouad Mebazaa and Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi tended their resignations, state media reported Tuesday evening, following a day of angry demonstrations which saw thousands of Tunisians calling for an end to the party that has ruled the country for over two decades.
The two veteran politicians however remain in their positions as president and prime minister.
The RCD also expelled former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and six of his close associates in a bid to distance the party from the disgraced Tunisian strongman.
The resignations and expulsions from the ruling party came after three ministers allied with the UGTT (General Union of Tunisian Workers) announced their withdrawal after the country’s largest union refused to support the new national unity government, which contains eight ministers who served under Ben Ali.
Demonstrations rock central Tunis
Labour Minister Houssine Dimassi, junior Transportation Minister Anouar Ben Gueddour, and Abdeljelil Bedoui, a minister without portfolio, quit following an extraordinary UGTT meeting Tuesday.
Hours later, Health Minister Mustapha Ben Jaafar of the FDLT opposition party also announced his resignation.
Reporting from the Tunisian capital of Tunis shortly after a UGTT press conference, FRANCE 24’s Chris Moore said the trade union “simply has no confidence in this transitional government. Union representatives say it does not include people from civil society and from all political parties.”
Under Ben Ali’s 23-year reign, a number of political parties were banned and several opposition figures went into exile. In the lead-up to formation of the new national unity government, a number of banned opposition parties were not included in the coalition talks.
Once banned parties jostle on a new political stage
As once banned or sidelined political parties jostled to have a say in the new Tunisia, senior opposition leader Moncef Marzouki arrived in Tunis Tuesday to a jubilant reception by cheering supporters.
Marzouki, the head of the CPR (Congress for the Republic), returned to Tunisia after years of exile in Paris and told reporters he planned to run in the next presidential election.
Tunisia's banned Islamist Ennahdha movement is also planning to request official status as a political party, one of its leaders told the AFP Tuesday.
‘A new positive vibe’
The latest withdrawals came as demonstrators took to the streets in Tunis and several other cities Tuesday to voice their opposition to the continued presence of the ruling RCD in the new government.
On Monday, Prime Minister Ghannouchi announced a new government , which included established political figures as well as opposition members, in a bid to bring back political stability to the North African nation.
But key portfolios – including the defence, interior and foreign affairs – were retained by RCD members.
In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24 Monday evening shortly after announcing the new government, Ghannouchi said the composition of the new administration was designed to “avoid a witch hunt and encourage national reconciliation.” Expressing his confidence in the transitional government, Ghannouchi said there was “a new, positive vibe” in Tunisia.
‘The burning smell of tear gas’
But more than three days after Ben Ali fled for Saudi Arabia, public anger in the once tightly controlled Arab nation showed no sign of abating as Tunisians once again took to the streets, some of them wielding placards that read, “RCD go home,” in English.
Reporting from downtown Tunis earlier Tuesday, FRANCE 24’s Cyril Vanier said police were firing tear gas into the crowds in an attempt to prevent very large gatherings in the heart of the city. “Once again, the burning smell of tear gas is spreading through the centre of the city,” said Vanier. “But for now, it seems like the police have instructions not to fire live rounds.”
At least 78 people have been killed since the start of the unrest in Tunisia, according to official figures, but opposition parties and rights groups say the toll is much higher. At a news conference Monday night, Tunisian Interior Minister Ahmed Friaa estimated that the economic cost so far in damaged property and lost business was 3 billion dinars ($2 billion).
Date created : 2011-01-18