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Time: Tunisia Pushes Out Its Strongman: Could Other Arab Countries Follow?
All revolutions are impossible, Leon Trotsky once said, until they become inevitable. That transformation was completed in a flash in Tunisia on Friday, as the country's authoritarian president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali fled the country in the face of a protest movement demanding jobs and democracy that violent repression had failed to quell. After trying to calm the nearly month-long protest wave by promising economic and political reform and democratic change, Ben Ali went a step further on Friday by dissolving his government and calling early parliamentary elections in six months. The rioting raged on, however, and by Friday afternoon he had declared a state of emergency. But reports from the streets of Tunis suggested that many soldiers and policemen had crossed over and embraced the protestors. And by day's end, news organizations were confirming that Ben Ali had fled the government, leaving the military and Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi in charge. But the nature of the political changes to come remains unclear -- one key difference between Tunisia and revolutions of the type envisaged by Trotsky was the fact that two decades of Ben Ali's relentless repression of political opposition has left few, if any, credible forces ready to step up run the country.


Keynesianism is intellectually hard, as evidenced by the inability of many trained economists to get it - Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jan 14th, 2011 at 02:32:26 PM EST
London Calling, Berlin Calling, La Jolla Calling, Shanghai Calling

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Fri Jan 14th, 2011 at 02:39:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Will he buy himself an English football club with his Swiss savings?

Keynesianism is intellectually hard, as evidenced by the inability of many trained economists to get it - Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jan 14th, 2011 at 02:44:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Big news, that they're talking about on French TV now. French pols (not even those who were most involved) talking round French support for Ben Ali.

It appears the Prime Minister has declared himself interim president. How long will that last? It takes a broad movement in society to bring this kind of change about, not just rioting youth. Who has the upper hand and what do they want? At a rough guess, the bourgeoisie, and some form of liberal democracy. But at a rough guess.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jan 14th, 2011 at 02:41:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
afew:
talking round French support

= tiptoeing round the fact of past support

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jan 14th, 2011 at 02:42:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks, I needed a double take.

Today in El Pais there was an article talking about the risk of the West siding with the authoritarians.

Apparently the punditry has forgotten Europe's role in the Algerian civil war of the 1990s.

Keynesianism is intellectually hard, as evidenced by the inability of many trained economists to get it - Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jan 14th, 2011 at 02:46:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
These transformative moments always make me happy, even if I know that the people's expectations are seldom fulfilled. When a regime like this collapses overnight like this it's because it was long overdue.

Keynesianism is intellectually hard, as evidenced by the inability of many trained economists to get it - Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jan 14th, 2011 at 02:43:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ben Ali is said to be heading for France (ie, should be here by now...)
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jan 14th, 2011 at 02:54:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
though the French government has not received any request to receive him

His family (including his wife, who owns most of the economy apparently) are in Canada.

(translations from Arab TV)

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Fri Jan 14th, 2011 at 02:55:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
His wife's family's property was sacked today and apparently the whereabouts of the Trabelsi family members (not including B A's wife) are unknown (Le Monde).
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jan 14th, 2011 at 02:58:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Breaking on Le Monde, French officialdom has stated France does not want Ben Ali on French soil.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jan 14th, 2011 at 03:14:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]


It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Fri Jan 14th, 2011 at 03:28:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mohamed Ghannouchi, un fidèle de Ben Ali - LeMonde.frMohammed Ghannouchi, faithful follower of Ben Ali - Le Monde
Mohamed Ghannouchi, 69 ans, devenu vendredi 14 janvier président par intérim de la Tunisie, après le départ du président Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, est un économiste, considéré comme mesuré et bon négociateur, qui a fait toute sa carrière politique dans l'ombre de l'ancien président.Mohammed Ghannouchi, 69, who became interim president of Tunisia on Friday 14 January, after the departure of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, is an economist, considered as moderate and a good negociator, whose entire political career has been pursued in the shadow of the fomer president.
Premier ministre de façon ininterrompue depuis le 17 novembre 1999, Ghannouchi, qui aura 70 ans cet été, assumera cette charge jusqu'à la tenue d'élections anticipées. Il est généralement perçu comme le porte-parole fidèle de M. Ben Ali pour annoncer d'importantes mesures ou les remaniements ministériels.Prime Minister since 17 November 1999, Ghannouchi, who will be 70 this summer, will take on presidential office till elections are held. He is generally seen as Ben Ali's faithful spokesman for the announcement of imporatnt measures or ministerial resuffles.
Ces dernières semaines, alors que le mouvement de contestation prenait de l'ampleur, sa présence s'est accrue. C'est lui qui a annoncé cette semaine le limogeage du ministère de l'intérieur. Il a également accordé des interviews aux médias internationaux pour défendre la gestion de la crise par les autorités.Over the last weeks, while the protest movement grew, his presence grew with it. It was he who announced, this week, the firing of the Interior Minister. He also gave interviews to the international media to defend the authorities' management of the crisis.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jan 14th, 2011 at 03:11:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
revolution...

Very much a Twitter/Facebook/UTube revolution, on the ground.

Ben Ali buggered off when the Yanks told him to, it seems.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Fri Jan 14th, 2011 at 03:51:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
good news, but given the absence of a democratic alternative I'm not sure it will be truly transformative, no do I believe it will encourage much needed change elsewhere

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Jan 14th, 2011 at 02:47:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When a dictatorship has lasted this long, (decades), of course there is no immediate democratic alternative. Doesn't mean there can't be one.

Doesn't mean there will necessarily be one either, of course.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jan 14th, 2011 at 02:51:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, but what I fear is a period of violent kerfuffle which runs the risk of being exploited by people who are no more friends of the Tunisians than Ben Ali

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Jan 14th, 2011 at 03:01:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Often times the military performs a caretaker function due to the fact that it remains the most organized and "modern"institution in the society. They may receive support from the middle class and students if there is a tacit agreement to protect property and suppress fundamentalist, provided the military is not captured by such elements.

A local viewpoint from Magharebia  By Adem Amine in Algiers and Jamel Arfaoui in Tunis

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) chief Abdelmalek Droukdel (aka Abou Moussaab Abdelouadoud) issued two audio recordings on Sunday (January 9th) addressing the Algeria riots and on-going demonstrations in Tunisia.

"This media intervention could be read in two ways. The first is that AQIM wants to mobilise, and maybe even recruit, members among the protesters. We have indeed seen young Algerians travelling to Iraq to fight the allied forces. We have indeed heard young people asking for weapons to go and fight the Israeli army in Gaza and Southern Lebanon," said Mustapha Saidj, a politics professor at the University of Algiers.

"The second interpretation is that this terrorist organisation is currently experiencing internal conflict. We have AQIM in the north and AQIM in the Sahel, and these two groups within this single organisation are experiencing frictions and a leadership struggle. But quite apart from all this, we must remember that there has been a major clean-up operation in Kabylie, AQIM's stamping ground in the north. This action is destined to have a psychological effect on what remains of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb," Saidj said.

The professor added that "historically, al-Qaeda has always stepped in every time there has been an event which focuses the attention of the international media. Remember his recordings which came out on the occasion of attacks in Iraq and attacks by the Israeli army against Gaza. This intervention is intended to say that social unease, in Tunisia and Algeria alike, justifies their fight against the corrupt regimes running this or that country."

The recordings are "one piece of a larger Islamist puzzle, which involves capitalising on discontent in the streets," according to University of Algiers lecturer Smail Maaraf. He stressed that the Islamists failed in their efforts to capitalise on the situation because they have not managed to repeat their coup of October 1988, when they showed themselves to be incredibly strong at mobilising the streets.

"Their words no longer have any hold on society, which sees them as terrorists and cut-throats," Maaraf said, adding that Droukdel's intervention had little impact on society. "Young people today, those born after the 90s, tend to be tuned in more to foreign TV channels, or logged on to the internet, and they're much more interested in nice clothes or looking for places to have a good time," said the lecturer, explaining why the extremists' talk has lost its hold over the hearts of young people, whose attention is focused elsewhere.




As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Jan 14th, 2011 at 03:46:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would expect some gray regime insider to be installed as caretaker to organize 'free' elections. Might well be from the military.

Keynesianism is intellectually hard, as evidenced by the inability of many trained economists to get it - Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jan 14th, 2011 at 08:03:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If "elsewhere" means Algeria, that's for sure another kettle of (military) fish.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jan 14th, 2011 at 02:55:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Ah, the voice of "hope and change" (Jerome) again :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Fri Jan 14th, 2011 at 02:57:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Pretty typical of comments on France 3 TV web site:

"bravo aux tunisiens qui peuvent etre fiers meme s'ils ont payé cher
et a tout les autres partout ailleurs esperons que cela leur donnera des idees y compris en france"

Bravo to the Tunisians who can feel proud of themselves even if they have paid dearly and to others everywhere hoping that will give them ideas and that includes France.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Fri Jan 14th, 2011 at 03:18:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A cartoon in this week's Canard Enchainé published last Wednesday, shows Algerian prez Bouteflika and one of his ministers (could apply to Tunisia just as well):

Minister: "Young people no longer want to be poor in a rich country"
President: "Would be the same thing for them in France"

by Bernard on Fri Jan 14th, 2011 at 03:47:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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