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Africa

Tunisians crave political stability amid reigning chaos

Text by Perrine MOUTERDE

Latest update : 2011-02-16

More than a month after an uprising in Tunisia forced its unpopular president to flee, the country is still suffering from strikes and unrest. Calls are growing for the constitution to be re-written and the ground prepared for elections.

Tunisia is still in turmoil a month after President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was deposed in a popular uprising.

The country is hamstrung by ongoing strikes and protests in all sectors of the economy.
Everyone, it seems, is taking to the streets.

Last week it was judges and lawyers demanding an independent judiciary – and this week workers at national carrier Telecom Tunisie went on strike. Even civil servants at the defence ministry are out protesting.

On Tuesday the authorities lifted the curfew – but the state of emergency has been extended “in the interest of national security.”

'A psycho-social phenomenon is unfolding'

“Confusion reigns,” Tunisian film director Fadhel Jaibi told FRANCE 24. “There are big fears for the future. Senior members of the previous regime are still at large. They are no longer holding the reins of power, but they’re not far from it either.”

“The public administration was dysfunctional anyway,” he added. “People want everything now. There is a deluge of selfish and personal claims. What we are seeing is a psycho-social phenomenon unfolding and threatening to swallow everything up.”

Political activist Slimane al-Rouissi said he believed members of the RDC, Ben Ali’s former ruling party, were largely responsible for the chaos.

“Our revolution has been hijacked,” he said. “Those who are out protesting and striking are being manipulated by the RDC. Our political demands are dropping by the wayside.”

Amid the chaos, fears are growing that the country’s economy may be on the brink of collapse. Unemployment, one of the demonstrators’ main gripes, is not going down. A recent headline in Tunisian daily La Presse read: “Experts warn that given current trends, in three or four months our trade balance will be in the red.”

Changing the constitution and preparing elections

The solution to these problems, in the eyes of many Tunisians, is to restore some semblance of political stability by revising the constitution and preparing the ground for elections.

Moncef Cheikh Rouhou, a Tunisian professor of international finance at the prestigious HEC University in Paris, told FRANCE 24 that political stability was the essential precursor to sound economics.

“It’s marvellous to breathe the air of freedom in Tunisia, but time is against us,” said Rouhou. “Economic proposals need to be made to the electorate. Presidential and legislative elections need to take place as soon as possible.”

For activist Al-Rouissi, the time has come for Tunisia to take Egypt’s example (Egypt’s revolution was inspired by Tunisia) and suspend the constitution.

“Tunisia needs to evolve towards a system of secular parliamentary democracy,” said Al-Rouissi. “Above all, we need a sense of calm and security. People need to get back to work. But right now this isn’t the case. People get home at night and they are afraid. The coming months will be crucial.”

 

 

Date created : 2011-02-16

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