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Political situation beginning to look like a 'free-for-all'

©

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2011-03-03

Despite the appointment of a new prime minister, five members of Tunisia’s new government have stepped down. France24.com asks Samy Ghorbal, a Franco-Tunisian political analyst and former journalist for Jeune Afrique, about the political confusion.

FRANCE 24: On Tuesday, only two days after the new transition prime minister, Beji Caid Essebsin, was appointed, three ministers stepped down. Why is their such an exodus?

Samy Ghorbal: We’re talking about a political earthquake here, a revolution within the revolution. In addition to the resignation of several figures who were emblematic of political change in Tunisia [Minister of Regional and Local Development Ahmed Nejb Chebbi, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Resarch Ahmed Ibrahim, and Minister of Economic Reform Elyes Jouini], the new prime minister has suggested that he could announce the creation of a constitutional council intended to amend the Constitution.

The council would be in charge of organising the election of a constitutional assembly instead of the presidential election that the initial transition plan had stipulated. In other words, this would be a revolutionary scenario in that the electoral calendar would be turned upside down. It’s a choice by the prime minister, but one that was made under intense pressure by street protesters.

FRANCE 24: You say that the prime minister is about to give in to pressure from street protesters. If the political authorities are not governing Tunisia, who is leading the country?

S.G.: The situation is tense. After January 14, a mix of opposition members from certain radical left-wing parties, Social Democrats, Ennahda Islamists, and the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) declared themselves the National Council for the Protection of the Revolution. Today, the UGTT is the dominant force in the council, as it is the only mass organisation still on its feet in Tunisia. With 200,000 to 300,000 members, it is furthermore the only group still capable of getting people out into the streets.

As of Sunday, the UGTT’s secretary-general, Abdessalem Jrad, said that the union disapproved of the appointment of Béji Caïd Essebsi to the prime minister's post. The grievance was apparently heard, since Jrad was received yesterday by the new prime minister.

The most shocking part of this story is to see Mr. Jrad – who, out of all the politicians linked to the former regime, was the only one not to leave – portray himself as the leader of the revolution. Because in addition to being suspected of racketeering and nepotism, he is one of the political personalities who has always defended Ben Ali. Indeed, right up until the end, he was reiterating his support for the former president: last summer, he signed a petition backing Ben Ali’s candidacy for the 2014 presidential election, in violation of the Consitution. And as recently as January 13, the day of Ben Ali's fall from power, Jrad was in the president’s office.

FRANCE 24: What risks does this situation pose?

S.G.: It’s beginning to look like a free-for-all in which all politicians can be eliminated. In only six weeks, Tunisia has already gone through an incalculable number of ministers. Moreover, numerous valuable political figures who had risen up patriotically in the wake of Ben Ali’s departure are now sick of Tunisian politics. There’s a sense of waste, because we don’t really know where we’re going anymore.
 

Date created : 2011-03-03

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