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The Tunisian Revolution

by ARGeezer Sat Jan 15th, 2011 at 02:07:04 AM EST

Migeru noted:

I would expect some gray regime insider to be installed as caretaker to organize 'free' elections. Might well be from the military.

The Prime Minister, Mohamed Ghannouchi, an economist, fills the bill for now. The other thing that must be done to have a chance of being successful is to satisfactorily reassure Paris and Washington that their "vital interests" are being protected. At a minimum this probably has to be plausible.

In any case the US is preoccupied with Lebanon, along with all its other ongoing disasters and doesn't really need a new adventure in North Africa. It appears that Mohamed Ghannouchi may fill the bill re US concerns and it helps that he is reasonably popular in Tunisia, if not viewed as full time leadership material.


Mohamed Ghannouchi: What WikiLeaks Tells Us About Ben Ali's Successor in Tunisia

After days of rioting and violent clashes with police, the country's strong-arm leader, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, has reportedly fled from the North African nation to Saudi Arabia. Citing the country's constitution, Mohamed Ghannouchi, Tunisia's former prime minister, announced today that he was assuming formal control of the government.

In classified U.S. State Department cables made public by WikiLeaks, Ghannouchi emerges as a much more palatable alternative to Ali, at least from the American perspective. Courtesy of The Guardian, here's a portion of a passage on Ghannouchi:

   A technocrat and economist, Ghannouchi has served as prime minister since 1999. Is rumored to have told many he wishes to leave the government but has not had the opportunity. Length of his service as PM also suggests Ben Ali does not view him as a threat and he is unlikely to be viewed as a qualified successor. However, average Tunisians generally view him with respect and he is well-liked in comparison to other GOT and RCD officials.

Tunisia has a rather unique history that may bode well for the possible outcome of their revolution. From Foreign Policy:


Why Tunisia's Revolution Is Islamist-Free  BY MICHAEL KOPLOW

Unlike in Egypt, Jordan, Algeria, and most other secular Arab autocracies, the main challenge to the Tunisian regime has not come from Islamist opposition but from secular intellectuals, lawyers, and trade unionists. The absence of a strong Islamist presence is the result of an aggressive attempt by successive Tunisian regimes, dating back over a half-century, to eliminate Islamists from public life. Ben Ali enthusiastically took up this policy in the early 1990s, putting hundreds of members of the al-Nahda party, Tunisia's main Islamist movement, on trial amid widespread allegations of torture and sentencing party leaders to life imprisonment or exile. Most influential Tunisian Islamists now live abroad, while those who remain in Tunisia have been forced to form a coalition with unlikely secular and communist bedfellows.

The nature of the opposition and the willingness of the Tunisian government to back down are not coincidental. If it had been clear that Islamist opposition figures were playing a large role in the current unrest, the government would likely have doubled down on repressive measures. The Tunisian government is rooted in secular Arab nationalist ideology and has long taken its secularism and its nationalism more seriously than its neighbors. Habib Bourguiba, Ben Ali's predecessor and the father of the post-colonial Tunisian state, took over lands belonging to Islamic institutions, folded religious courts into the secular state judicial system, and enacted a secular personal status code upon coming to power.

Bourguiba, like Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in Turkey, viewed Islamists as an existential threat to the very nature of the Tunisian state. He viewed the promotion of secularism as linked to the mission and nature of the state, and because Islamists differed with him on this fundamental political principle, they were not allowed into the political system at all. Bourguiba displayed no desire for compromise on this question, calling for large-scale executions of Islamists following bombings at tourist resorts. He was also often hostile toward Muslim religious traditions, repeatedly referring to the veil in the early years of Tunisian independence as an "odious rag."

Ben Ali, who served as prime minister under Bourguiba, has taken a similarly hard line. Unlike other Arab leaders such as Morocco's King Mohammed VI or Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, he has been unwilling to adopt any sort of religious title or utilize Islamic imagery to justify his rule. Most importantly, Ben Ali never attempted to co-opt Islamists by controlling their entry into the political system, but instead excluded them entirely from the political dialogue.

....

Ben Ali's fate may have been sealed when military officers -- who had been marginalized by the regime as it lavished money on family members and corrupt business elites -- demonstrated a willingness to stand down and protect protesters from the police and internal security services. However, a military coup would also represent no ideological challenge to the regime -- the state's mission of advancing secular nationalism will continue even after Ben Ali's removal from power. And in the event that the military willingly cedes power and holds new elections in six months, the decimation of the Islamist movement over the last two decades means that any serious challenger is bound to come from a similar ideological background.

Now that Ben Ali is safely in Arabia the Tunisians are congratulating themselves that they brought off the revolution without outside support. The challenge will be to continue to proceed in a manner that is directed towards the needs of Tunisia's society as a whole. Compared to Ben Ali the international banksters would seem significantly more formidable. An alliance with Turkey would seem in order. Together Turkey and Tunisia could form a secular axis in the Muslim world.

Display:
As Crane Brinton observed in The Anatomy of  Revolution revolutions take on a dynamic of their own. Tunisia seems to have many advantages, including a significant educated population, a secular orientation and the fact that the biggest problem in the society may have been the government that has just fallen. We can at least hope that this revolution will result in  significant improvements for the people of Tunisia.

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 11:47:39 PM EST
Brian Whitaker's blog, January 2011

In due course, every city of consequence in Tunisia will have a street or square named after Mohamed Bouazizi, the unemployed fruit-seller whose humiliation at the hands of the authorities led to a revolution. It's sad that he didn't live to see it but today's events are a fitting tribute.

It is still unclear what the future may hold for Tunisia but we can be sure that whoever takes over will have to listen far more to the voice of the people or risk the same fate as Ben Ali.

On January 7 - only a week ago, but it seems such a long time now - I discussed what impact a Tunisian revolution might have on the wider Arab world. 

Regardless of what happens next in terms of a Tunisian government, the inescapable fact is that a popular uprising has removed an Arab head of state - a truly historic event. Ben Ali has fled and he is not going to return, despite what anyone may say about whether he has formally resigned or not.

That alone is going to have a huge psychological impact throughout the region. As several people have pointed out on Twitter, while Obama says "Yes, we can", the Tunisians have said "Yes, we do."

Looking around the other Arab regimes, I can't see any of them (with the possible exception of Algeria) at risk of being toppled in the quite same way - at least, not in the immediate future. There are so many differences in the circumstances.

by Nomad on Sat Jan 15th, 2011 at 05:06:30 AM EST
Unfortunately I won't live long enough to see a similar event occur in the US. Maybe with Palin/Gingrich in the WH things will hurry up.

The good news ... it's only a life sentence. You eventually leave this planet of idiots.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sat Jan 15th, 2011 at 07:47:08 AM EST
Thank you for this, I must say I am not to informed of the situation in Tunisia.

Under Ben Ali, what was the real state of democracy? I noticed this:

Tunisia arrests Pirate Party bloggers « Christian Engström, Pirate MEP

January 6. Among the civil rights activists arrested were Tunisian Pirate Party members Slah Eddine Kchouk, Azyz Amami, and Slim Amamou

Seeing how Pirate Party Tunisia activists were arrested, some political parties were evidently allowed (and cracked down on). Is there an elected parliament? If so, how much of a puppet-parliament is it?

And then the economic situation. As I understand it, a main problem for the regime has been high food prices. Is that the result of the funny money pressuring all prices upwards, and if so, can a new government do anything about it?

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Sat Jan 15th, 2011 at 07:56:50 AM EST
Ben Ali was a police-state dictator in a country with a supposedly democratic constitution.

There is a two-chamber parliament in which opposition parties are guaranteed at least 25% representation. The president is directly elected/plebiscited.

In fact, genuine opposition has been subject to censorship, imprisonment, intimidation, and forced exile, throughout the Ben Ali years (23).

See the Amnesty International Tunisia report for 2009.

Food prices were probably the spark for this major revolt, but Tunisia is a country with a fairly high cultural and educative level, and the popular will to be rid of dictatorship has simmered for a long time. Rising worldwide food prices are probably due in part to liquidity ("funny money") looking for just any market that looks like there's an upside; but the appearance of an upside (for the casino gamblers) is unfortunately the reality of rising world demand for internationally marketable foodstuffs when climate instability is testing the limits of productivist farming. In other words, governments can't do much about this (until they collectively decide to railroad the financial sector, and individually decide to stimulate their own agriculture).

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Jan 15th, 2011 at 08:34:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Does the Pirate Party arrests somehow tie in with this, from Al-Jazeera yesterday?
Yet, in a surprising speech in which Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the Tunisian president, announced that he will not run again for office, he also promised something long hoped-for by Tunisian netizens: Internet freedom. And shortly after the promise was made, it came true as popular sites like YouTube and Dailymotion were made available to the public.

Though their newfound online freedom was met with cheers, some Tunisian activists - many of whom have made digital activism part of their repertoire despite pervasive filtering - are treading cautiously. Still others suspect it will not last.

by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on Sat Jan 15th, 2011 at 09:01:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the fact that there is a Tunisian Pirate Party ties in to that. With enough infrastructure, enough youths that can use it and enough organisation, freedom of information is going to be a part of any revolutionary agenda and method, and a problem for any oppressive regime.

The connection to the cables of wikileaks probably also fits in here:

The First WikiLeaks Revolution? | WikiLeaked

Of course, Tunisians didn't need anyone to tell them this. But the details noted in the cables -- for example, the fact that the first lady may have made massive profits off a private school -- stirred things up. Matters got worse, not better (as surely the government hoped), when WikiLeaks was blocked by the authorities and started seeking out dissidents and activists on social networking sites. 


A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!
by A swedish kind of death on Sat Jan 15th, 2011 at 09:53:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Arrêté sous Ben Ali, le blogueur Slim Amamou devient ministre !
Blogueur très connu en Tunisie, militant de la liberté d'expression et technophile, Slim Amamou a été nommé secrétaire d'Etat à la Jeunesse et aux sports dans le nouveau gouvernement de Mohammed Ghannouchi. Il avait été arrêté par les autorités sous l'ancien président Ben Ali.

From arrested dissident to junior minister (correct terminology?), revolutions make quick careers.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 02:17:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Does that mean Minister for Youth and Sports? That'd normally be a junior ministry, unless it was combined in some larger portfolio.

Though I sometimes suspected in Oz that Ministry of Sport might have been a de facto inner cabinet ministry ~ the Ozzies take their sport quite seriously.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 08:22:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That post has been the entry point for other notable Tunisian career politicians.

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 Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 09:57:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Now Slim Amamou has resigned as (informal) party leader for the (informal) Parti Pirate Tunisien as "party affiliations are incompatible with the constitution".

Piratpartiet Presscenter » Blog Archive » Direktrapportering: Slim Amamou avgår från sin ledarroll i Piratpartiet.

"Politiska affilieringar är oförenligt med Tunisiens konstitution, har det visat sig," berättar Amelia Andersdotter. "Media refererar fortfarande till honom som ledare för det tunisiska Piratpartiet, men det är viktigt att komma ihåg att partiet varit informellt fram tills nu. Tidigare har partiet inte kunnat registreras. Kanske förändras läget efter valet."

For Parti Pirate it is probably all the same, but it appears a bit problematic to demand opposition figures to sever ties to their parties.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 05:16:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The caretaker government contains only three opposition ministers, all in relatively junior positions. And those are from officially recognized political parties only. Essentially, it's a government made up of members of the Ben Ali party.

How well it will be accepted by the people will no doubt be seen today and tomorrow.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 01:23:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Complications:

BBC:

On Saturday the Constitutional Council declared that parliamentary Speaker Foued Mebazaa should be the country's new interim president. It is unclear who is in charge, our correspondent says.

Who?

Mebazaâ suit des études et obtient une licence en droit en sciences économiques1 à Paris.

Il devient ministre de la Jeunesse et des Sports le 30 novembre 1973 puis, le 13 septembre 1978, ministre de la Santé publique. Le 7 novembre 1979, il est nommé ministre des Affaires culturelles et de l'Information. Il conserve le premier portefeuille jusqu'au 2 janvier 1981 et le second jusqu'au 3 décembre 1980. Le 27 octobre 1987, il revient au gouvernement avec le portefeuille de la Jeunesse et des Sports au sein du gouvernement du Premier ministre Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. Il conserve ce poste après le coup d'État du 7 novembre 1987.

Il est également ambassadeur de la Tunisie auprès de l'Office des Nations unies à Genève de 1981 à 1986 puis au Maroc de 1986 à 19871 avant d'être élu à la tête de la Chambre des députés en 1997. Ce poste en fait le successeur constitutionnel du président Ben Ali en cas de vacance de la présidence. Du fait du départ de ce dernier suite à la révolution de jasmin, il est nommé président de la République tunisienne par intérim le 15 janvier 2011.

Which isn't exactly the track record of a monster of ambition, and does make him sound like a deliberately uncontroversial interim caretaker.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Jan 15th, 2011 at 08:04:36 AM EST
French journalists were speculating on midday news that Mebazaâ clears the way for a Ghannouchi candidature in the upcoming presidential election.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Jan 15th, 2011 at 08:36:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
See also last night's discussion on the Open Thread.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Jan 15th, 2011 at 08:49:09 AM EST

Israel dreading a democratic Arab world

The Israeli deputy PM expresses his concern over the democratisation of the Arab world, following the dissolution of the Tunisian leadership

The fall of Tunisia's regime headed by Zine El Abidine Ben Alican have serious repercussions, said Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom.
In an interview on Israeli radio Friday night, Shalom said that he comes from a family of Tunisian immigrants.

"I fear that we now stand before a new and very critical phase in the Arab world. If the current Tunisian regime collapses, it will not affect Israel's present national security in a significant way," he said. "But we can, however, assume that these developments would set a precedent that could be repeated in other countries, possibly affecting directly the stability of our system."

Shalom added that if regimes neighbouring the Israeli state were replaced by democratic systems, Israeli national security might significantly be threatened. The new systems would defend or adopt agendas that are inherently opposed to Israeli national security, he said.




Wind power
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Jan 16th, 2011 at 03:29:26 AM EST
It's getting a little play, including on HuffPost, but I can't find any other source for the moment than the El Ahram correspondent in Gaza you cite.

Presumably the interview would have been in Hebrew and hasn't been translated.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Jan 16th, 2011 at 04:19:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A search for his name on Google News in Hebrew only comes up with some general comments on how Israel is following the news with concern, but nothing like this quote.
by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on Sun Jan 16th, 2011 at 08:32:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Concern trolling from Netanyahu:

Netanyahu: Tunisia turmoil shows instability of entire Mideast - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

Speaking during the cabinet's weekly meeting in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said that recent turmoil in Tunisia was an example of "how unstable Israel's region is."

"There are several centers of instability in our region and we hope that peace and security return to the region," Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu added that the Tunisian unrest also highlights an important issue regarding a possible Middle East peace treaty, saying that there is doubt whether or not such an agreement would be followed by all sides in the long run in view of the pervasive political instability in the region.

"We don't know if a peace agreement would be respected and so any peace deal would have to include on-the-ground security arrangements," the premier said.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Jan 16th, 2011 at 04:20:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Did he expect Ben Ali to last forever? 30 years is a long time for a despot! The grotesque hypocrisy is on full display here. The concern for "democracy" is a gut fear that future governments will be more sensitive to the Arab street, while thuggish and repressive autocrats don't have to care.

The Israeli government is amply confirming the worst allegations of leftist Arab critics regarding the effect of Israel on Arab politics. Like Isarel is SO concerned with the opinions of the 40% of its own population that do not support Likud and its policies.

But the recent actions of the democratically elected Turkish government with respect to the flotilla may also be a serious concern. Were Turkey to obtain Arab allies who support such activities that could serve to further delegitimate Likud governments in Israel.

In Half Slave and Half Free Bruce Levine wrote that a precipitating factor for the Civil War was the escalating insistence of southern slave states that northern authorities be fully supportive of all their efforts to recapture fugitive slaves. It was one thing for the south to have slavery. It was quite another for them to insist that the north be forthcoming  accomplices. A similar dynamic appears to be at play here.
 

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 Sun Jan 16th, 2011 at 11:36:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yediot has a front page article on returning tourists, describing how Tunisia became like Iraq overnight, but I couldn't find anything about the official reaction.
by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on Sun Jan 16th, 2011 at 04:24:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
IBA has no reference in English to this interview.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Jan 16th, 2011 at 04:33:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Note: this was written before Ben Ali escaped Tunisia.

Arab regimes on edge | Marc Lynch

It's very clear that most Arab regimes are on edge over the possibility of the spread of the protests in Tunisia and Algeria. Arab columnists and TV shows have been excitedly debating the real causes of the protests and what they might mean, while in country after country warnings are being sounded of a repeat of the "Tunisia scenario." It's not at all clear whether these protests actually will spread yet, as regimes on high alert will not be taken by surprise and local conditions vary dramatically.

The protests have already sparked a region-wide debate about the prospects for political change and the costs of political repression and economic stagnation. The discussion of the "Tunisia scenario" is everywhere. In Jordan, the Muslim Brotherhood warned today that the impending price rises planned by the new government will lead to an unprecedented explosion along the North African model -- which is the lead story in Lebanon's al-Akhbar. In Egypt, Trade and Industry Minister Rashid Mohammed Rashid ruled out a "Tunisia scenario" in his country over the economy, though many columnists and political activists disagree. Leading Saudi columnist Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed today seems worried, rather than excited, that protesters may have broken the psychological barrier against demonstrating and raises the specter of a "domino theory" by which even currently calm Arab states may soon be threatened.

The debate is being carried by social media and by satellite television, despite the outsized efforts by most of the regimes to silence whatever media falls under their control. From Kuwait and Tunisia's moves to ban al-Jazeera to traditional repression of local journalists to the escalating crackdown against Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, Arab regimes are trying to keep control of the narrative. But it doesn't seem to be working. Even status quo media outlets are being forced to discuss the events and to entertain unsettling questions.

It still is not at all obvious that these protests will sustain themselves, lead to revolutions, or even force major changes in the policies of their regimes. But they have already seared themselves into Arab political discourse. Defenders of the regimes generally try to define the events as food and price riots, or else as externally fomented terrorism. Few independent columnists or activists agree with the idea that these are simply food and price riots, or external terrorism. They point to the underlying political problems which have enabled the economic mismanagement and corruption and lack of opportunity. How the events are framed will have real significance for the response.

by Nomad on Sun Jan 16th, 2011 at 11:58:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can imagine all these Arab countries saying "we're not Tunisia" and "we're not Algeria" just like EU countries protest "we're not Greece, we're not Ireland".

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 Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 04:32:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For the last 30+ years Israel has built its regional security on deal-making with neighbors, particularly in Jordan and Egypt. They feel they've been able to effectively manage things with the Palestinians and in Lebanon, but I could see how Israel would be worried if Mubarak suddenly fell to the Muslim Brotherhood, or King Abdullah were somehow overthrown in Jordan, potentially risking peace deals from the '70s and the '90s.

And the world will live as one
by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 12:43:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What's happening in Tunisia this evening? (from French news...)

There's been a lot of confusion, especially from journalists who have surely been keeping their heads down in the customary watering holes and official outlets, about violence and fear. Gangs of looters are roaming the towns, Tunis but not only, there is shooting, and yet the army is enforcing the curfew... Hmm.

The Tunisians themselves aren't confused. They talk of Ben Ali militias out to terrorise the people and show that, as soon as Papa Ben Ali goes, chaos ensues. (I say "Papa" designedly, since terrorising by militia is an old Papa Doc tactic). There has certainly been looting of property belonging to the Ben Ali and Trabelsi (his wife) clan, including their luxury villas and supermarkets they run. But the use of firearms does seem to be terra tactics by Ben Ali faithful. That is, parts of the police, the presidential guard, and general henchmen such as a decades-long dictatorship breeds.

There are two reaction: one, the ordinary people are forming vigilante groups to keep the militas out of their neighbourhoods night and day. Two, the army seems to have come down on the side, if not of revolution, at least of the current legitimate power. After fighting snipers in Tunis, the army is said to be encircling the presidential palace in Carthage this evening in order to clean out the presidential (Ben Ali) guard.

People are obviously very anxious and scared, but this doesn't look right now as if it's going the wrong way. Tomorrow a national union caretaker government is due to be formed. After that, it depends. Will the army play the democratic game, or decide to be the kingmaker? Etc...

But it would seem Ben Ali's goose is cooked.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Jan 16th, 2011 at 03:22:28 PM EST
In Swedish news a group of Swedish boar hunters were attacked in Tunis. Beaten, disarmed and chocked but otherwise ok and on their way of leaving the country. For a conflict zone, it shows a relatively low level of violence that a group of armed foreigners are mainly disarmed and then let loose (maybe they managed to explain that they were boar-hunters, details are unclear).

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!
by A swedish kind of death on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 05:29:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Carthage presidential palace fight was apparently less dramatic than reports last night made it out to be:

Tunisia PM to unveil new government - Africa - Al Jazeera English

Presidential guards loyal to Ben Ali were involved in the shootout in Carthage, about 15km north of Tunis, according to two residents.

The clashes broke out in the afternoon and were marked by sporadic but heavy gunfire, forcing local residents to barricade themselves inside their homes.

Al Jazeera's Mohyeldin, reporting from Tunis, said that there had been a "volley of gunfire" exchanged between "unidentifiable" parties, but that the shooting seemed to have died down later in the evening.

Reuters reported, quoting a military source who did not want to be identified, that people loyal to the arrested head of Ben Ali's security force had opened fire as they passed near the front of the presidential palace.

"Special military groups came out [from the palace] to pursue them and they started to exchange fire," the source said.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 06:05:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Tunisia: Democratic Triumph or U.S. Disaster?  Barry Lando   HuPo

Officially, the Obama administration greeted the "Jasmine" revolution in Tunisia with open arms, calling for free and fair elections as the U.S. scrambled to get aboard the democratic bandwagon.

....

Indeed, elsewhere throughout the region, from Saudi Arabia to Jordan to Yemen to Ethiopia to Afghanistan and Pakistan, the picture seems markedly similar: U.S. allies are invariably corrupt dictators, maintained in power by lavish patronage and the military. Ironically, in Lebanon, where the public has had a growing voice in national politics, it's the anti-American and anti-Israel Hezbollah who have ridden popular acclaim to become the decisive voice in the country.

Similarly in Iraq, popular participation also has benefited America's most outspoken enemy there: Moqtada al-Sadr., whose followers fought bloody battles against the U.S. after the invasion. Seemingly vanquished, he has returned from three years in Iran to wield a decisive political voice in Iraq. He demands the withdrawal of all U.S. troops and bases from his country. Ironically, because of the elections in Iraq, the country that will almost certainly be calling the shots there in the future will not be the United States, but Iran.

Meanwhile, moderates pushing for something akin to democracy and secular rule are losing ground. In Pakistan, the soldier who killed the governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, who had been outspoken in his fight against religious fundamentalism, was showered with rose petals while many of the country's lawyers -- who had once gone to the streets demanding democratic reform -- celebrated the murderer as a national hero.

And democracy in Israel? A true democracy with a vote for every person -- Jews and all the Arabs under Israeli control -- including those living in the West Bank? Forget it. It would be the end of the Zionist dream of a Jewish State. We don't hear Hillary or Obama talking much about that these days.


BOTH? By the fruits of their labor shall you know them.

Also cross-posted in the Sunday Salon World section.

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 Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 12:57:15 AM EST
The US and France were in love with Ben Ali. They were impressed with his persecution of the Islamists, his economic agenda was touted as a brilliant model that could be replicated in North Africa. and he proved to be a staunch US ally actively involved in the controversial rendition programme.

For these reasons, the US tolerated Ben Ali's long record on human rights abuses. and when young people were killed in the recent protests, Washington and Paris chose to stand by their ally.

http://blogs.aljazeera.net/2011/01/14/tunisia-end-era

by asdf on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 10:50:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Confusion, fear and horror in Tunisia as old regime's militia carries on the fight | World news | The Guardian
Confusion reigned. For the first time in the Arab world, a people had forced out a leader by spontaneously and peacefully taking to the street. But although Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali has fled, the diehards of his brutal police force have not. During the day random yellow taxi-loads of militia loyal to the ousted leader had careered through the capital and some suburbs, firing randomly into the air. Armed gangs broke into homes and ransacked them, or fired shots in the street.

In the early morning, after the curfew that shuts down Tunis at night, some residents ventured out for coffee at the few cafes that were open, often in the shadow of tanks positioned on intersections. Later, tension ran high. By lunchtime, one hospital morgue in Tunis had registered 13 dead, including five police officers. "This is being done by Ben Ali's old torturers, they have arms, they want to create chaos," said an activist from one opposition party.

In residential areas across the country, locals formed vigilante groups to defend themselves against the gangs they feared were led by Ben Ali's police. In La Marsa, a middle-class suburb to the north, streets were blockaded by old bits of broken doors, plant pots, water cans, bricks and paving slabs, to stop cars speeding through for drive-by shootings or houses being ransacked. Omar, 18, a well-dressed sixth-former who wanted to go to art college, had been standing guard until 3am as part of a hastily-formed group. "There were 30 of us, including my schoolfriends and my dad. We armed ourselves with sticks and whatever we could find, and wore white armbands so the army knew who we were." As he stood talking outside a smart shopping centre protected by a tank, a soldier warned him to move, as there had been reports of a taxi marauding through the area containing gunmen firing from its windows.



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 Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 04:38:09 AM EST
International Business Times: The Story of Mohamed Bouazizi, the man who toppled Tunisia
Mohamed Bouazizi was a 26-year-old Tunisian with a computer science degree.

...

To make ends meet, the unemployed Bouazizi sold fruits and vegetables from a cart in his rural town of Sidi Bouzid, located 160 miles from the country's capital Tunis. He did not have a license to sell, but it was his sole source of income.

On December 17, authorities confiscated his produce and allegedly slapped his face.

...

He then drenched himself in gasoline and set himself on fire outside the governor's office. Bouazizi survived his initial suicide attempt. After being transported to a hospital near Tunis, he was visited by President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali before passing away on January 4.

After his suicide attempt, unrest broke out in Sidi Bouzid. The police cracked down on the protestors, which only fueled the movement.  The revolt eventually spread to the capital city.



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 Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 06:22:31 AM EST
Powerful, tragic.

Saigon, Oct.5, 1963

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 07:13:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Self-immolations across north Africa follow suicide in Tunisia   Guardian

After death of Muhammad Bouazizi, aggrieved citizens set themselves on fire in Egypt, Algeria and Mauritania

A spate of self-immolations in north Africa appears to have followed the suicide that helped bring down the Tunisian president last week.

An Egyptian, a Mauritanian and at least four Algerians have set themselves alight over the past five days as a means of protesting against their governments.



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 Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 11:25:50 AM EST
But not necessarily to the same effect as in Tunisia. Specific conditions vary and matter.

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 Mon Jan 17th, 2011 at 11:27:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Tunisia: the first Arab revolution | Mona Eltahawy | Comment is free | The Guardian

The equations circling Tunisia right now are very clear: we have no idea who or what kind of coalition of leaders will emerge but there is no doubt who's rooting for the failure of this revolution: every Arab leader who has spent the past month watching Tunisia in fear. You can be sure the region's dictators are on their knees right now praying for chaos and collapse for Tunisia.

Some Arab countries have simply ignored what happened: no official statement from Algeria or Morocco. Others said they respect the wish of Tunisians but filled their state-owned media with reminders that they weren't anything like Tunisia: Egypt.

Leave it to Muammar Gaddafi, the world's longest-serving dictator, to best portray that panic. Addressing a nation where thousands had faced down the bullets of Ben Ali's security to protest at unemployment, police brutality and the corruption of the regime, Gaddafi told Tunisians they were now suffering bloodshed and lawlessness because they were too hasty in getting rid of Ben Ali.

If every Arab leader has watched Tunisia in fear, then every Arab citizen has watched in hope because it was neither Islamists - long used by our leaders to scare many into acquiescence - nor foreign troops that toppled the dictator: it was ordinary and very fed up people.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 01:26:57 AM EST
Robert Fisk:

For I fear this is going to be the same old story. Yes, we would like a democracy in Tunisia - but not too much democracy. Remember how we wanted Algeria to have a democracy back in the early Nineties?

Then when it looked like the Islamists might win the second round of voting, we supported its military-backed government in suspending elections and crushing the Islamists and initiating a civil war in which 150,000 died.

<snip>

It's the same old problem for us in the West. We mouth the word "democracy" and we are all for fair elections - providing the Arabs vote for whom we want them to vote for.

In Algeria 20 years ago, they didn't. In "Palestine" they didn't. And in Lebanon, because of the so-called Doha accord, they didn't. So we sanction them, threaten them and warn them about Iran and expect them to keep their mouths shut when Israel steals more Palestinian land for its colonies on the West Bank.

There was a fearful irony that the police theft of an ex-student's fruit produce - and his suicide in Tunis - should have started all this off, not least because Mr Ben Ali made a failed attempt to gather public support by visiting the dying youth in hospital.

For years, this wretched man had been talking about a "slow liberalising" of his country. But all dictators know they are in greatest danger when they start freeing their entrapped countrymen from their chains.

And the Arabs behaved accordingly. No sooner had Ben Ali flown off into exile than Arab newspapers which have been stroking his fur and polishing his shoes and receiving his money for so many years were vilifying the man. "Misrule", "corruption", "authoritarian reign", "a total lack of human rights", their journalists are saying now. Rarely have the words of the Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran sounded so painfully accurate: "Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpetings, and farewells him with hootings, only to welcome another with trumpetings again." Mohamed Ghannouchi, perhaps?

by Nomad on Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 06:42:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpetings, and farewells him with hootings, only to welcome another with trumpetings again."

I think Pete Townshend wrote a verse or two like that

There's nothing in the street
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Is now the parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around me
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
Don't get fooled again

Meet the new boss
same as the old boss

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 08:11:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let's all dissolve into a puddle of whining self-pity.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 11:12:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The parallel with Islamism in the 1990s in Algeria has practically nothing to do with the situation in Tunisia today. (Or even in Algeria, for that matter). There's no risk of the country being taken over by Islamists.

So who would the West's bogeymen be? The good old Communists, probably. Who are not in a position to take over.

Also, (hint): there's no oil in Tunisia. Other businesses will adapt to a change of regime.

If Tunisia has tipped up, it's because there's a middle class that has had enough. The middle class will go for what it wants, doubtless a move towards (middle-class) liberal democracy. Most of the people seem in agreement on this, and not disposed to be scared out of what they want by Ben Ali's faithful militia terror tactics. So there's a solid chance that Tunisia will leave a stinking ripoff dictatorship for something better.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 11:24:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Anyway, for me the key point Fisk made was not on the dynamics inside Tunisia, but on the record of western hypocrisy deciding what kind of democracy a country deserves, particularly when it's an Arab country.

The fact that already a considerable middle class has formed in Tunisia stems me slightly hopeful - but I'm not convinced it guarantees something better. What happens to the businesses of the Trabelsi clan now (most of) the Trabelsi's have fled, and their houses pillaged? Who's taking over? Ben Ali's political partners are still at the helm. To organise a serious opposition candidate for presidential election outside of the opposition parties that got Ben Ali's stamp of approval, within sixty days is a formidable task in any normal country.

by Nomad on Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 02:53:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I believe the time-line has been extended to six months. I saw something to that effect in an article Monday night. But, still, that is a short time to organize from scratch. That probably has something to do with "opposition" parties, including those representing the unions, pulling out of the coalition government. But other revolutions have shown that events can unfold and totally transform the context for all parties.

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 Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 03:20:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think two and six months has been mentioned several times. Might be decisions/timelines by different bodies.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!
by A swedish kind of death on Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 03:51:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hadn't picked up on that.

Presidential elections in six months implies that one of Ghannouchi's first political decisions consisted of breaking the Tunisian constitution (article 57).

Not that the constitution was put together democratically, but well.

Note that Ben Ali also called for next elections in six months. No wonder people have been protesting again today.

by Nomad on Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 03:53:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nomad:
the key point Fisk made was not on the dynamics inside Tunisia, but on the record of western hypocrisy deciding what kind of democracy a country deserves, particularly when it's an Arab country.

That was indeed his key point. Mine was that this is very general and of uncertain application in the case of Tunisia.

If I were to extend it, I'd say that these days, Fisk tends to talk about everything as if it was still the 1990s.

I'm also not clear on what the "West" wants in Tunisia, nor which countries have an interest. The US doesn't seem to see Tunisia as vital (compared to Lebanon at the moment), and the French government has just shown dubious analysis and incompetent communications in its non-handling of the situation.

As to business interests, no doubt French intervention will boil down to defending those of its corporations. No doubt there will be a transfer of power within the Tunisian middle class - the Trabelsi clan simply stole businesses and desirable property (the Trabelsi who stole a yacht died of stab wounds the other day).

Of course, it's possible a realigned set of business interests in the country might choose a new dictatorship. But the entire people has now tasted its power to change outcomes, and the overall direction the country has taken is opposed to that.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jan 19th, 2011 at 01:34:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is there any special circumstance that would prevent corporate interests from electing their lobbyists, and following the USA down the primrose path to corporate Fascism?

Align culture with our nature.
by ormondotvos (ormond no spam lmi net no spam) on Wed Jan 19th, 2011 at 03:48:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
None, apart from the fact that the Tunisian people have just shown their determination to change to a more open system of government by fighting in the streets with considerable loss of life to police bullets, while American populism and shooting seem to be coming from rather the opposite direction.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jan 19th, 2011 at 05:07:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You should also consider the alternate hypothesis: That the American condition may be the exception that requires exceptional depravity to arrive at, rather than the default to which all societies must necessarily gravitate unless they display exceptional virtue.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jan 19th, 2011 at 05:56:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is there any special circumstance...?

Instead of 40 years of THE MARKET IS THE LEFT HAND OF GOD propaganda, as we have had here in the USA Tunisia has had 20+ years of Cult of the Personality propaganda centered on Ben Ali. Given the circumstances that propaganda is sort of self cleaning. What we have experienced is anything but self cleaning and the cleaning has not (yet?) begun.

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 Wed Jan 19th, 2011 at 11:34:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Seen on Green MEP Sven Giegold's facebook :
Sozialdemokraten & Konservative verhindern Resolution zu Tunesien

...

... das Thema den Sozialdemokraten unangenehm ist: Diktator Ben Ali war bis zuletzt Mitglied der Sozialistischen Internationale.

... Bitte nicht vergessen: Und Deutschland kritiklos dorthin exportiert...

The Social Democrats and EPP prevented a resolution on Tunisia in the European Parliament. The issue is uncomfortable to the Social Democrats because Ben Ali was part of the Socialist Internationa. And let's not forget that Germany exported to Tunisia without criticism.

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 Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 05:58:20 AM EST
Source? I don't see Tunisia under the list of full members of the Socialist International. When were they kicked out?

On the other hand, Mubarak's NDP is a full member, and they haven't yet decided which piece of Israel's Labour party to keep on.

by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 06:24:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The RCD (Ben Ali's party) was kicked out of the Socialist International today...

"People only accept change when they are faced with necessity, and only recognize necessity when a crisis is upon them." - Jean Monnet
by Melanchthon on Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 09:06:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Le RCD tunisien exclu de l'Internationale socialiste, annonce le PS - Fil news - TF1 News
Le RCD (Rassemblement constitutionnel démocratique), parti du président tunisien déchu Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, a été "exclu" de l'Internationale socialiste, a annoncé mardi Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, secrétaire national du PS chargé des questions internationales. "A la demande du Parti socialiste français, qui l'avait maintes fois réclamé dans le passé, l'Internationale socialiste a rompu toute relation avec le RCD Tunisien et l'a exclu de ses rangs", a indiqué M. Cambadélis dans un communiqué.


"People only accept change when they are faced with necessity, and only recognize necessity when a crisis is upon them." - Jean Monnet
by Melanchthon on Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 09:07:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Closing the barn door after the horse has bolted?

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 Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 09:08:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Congratualtions on the alacrity of their action. It seems that all that is required for membership is to feature the word Socialist in the title.

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 Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 10:11:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm impressed by their reflexes...

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 Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 10:12:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
or of loyal opposition. Ben Ali's party is suddenly de-legitimized.

All Hail the Second International.

(The Socialist International left me, via the NZLP, in 1985.)

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

by eurogreen on Wed Jan 19th, 2011 at 07:52:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And now I've just read that the RCD kicked Ben Ali out.

He was giving them a bad name.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 12:53:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Socialist International kicked the RCD out
The RCD kicked Ben Ali out
And Ben Ali kicked his dog out...

"People only accept change when they are faced with necessity, and only recognize necessity when a crisis is upon them." - Jean Monnet
by Melanchthon on Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 02:18:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
(or would have had he not left it in Tunisia.)

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 Wed Jan 19th, 2011 at 11:36:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Greens | European Free Alliance in the European Parliament - - Tunisia

The European Parliament this evening debated the current situation in Tunisia with the European Commission. The Greens have criticised the EU's support for the former dictatorship and called for the EU to now support the truly democratic opposition forces, so that a real democratic transformation occurs. During the debate, Greens/EFA co-president Dany Cohn-Bendit said:

"The EU has for far too long been complicit in propping up the dictatorship in Tunisia; the dictator has fled but his apparatus is still in place. The EU must urgently shift tack if we are to ensure a real democratic transformation occurs. This means diverting EU funds away from the old apparatus of the dictatorship towards the truly democratic opposition forces, whether political or in the media.

"There is a real opportunity to support the creation of a real democracy in North Africa and to show that democracy is possible in a Muslim country. Time is running out for Tunisia and the Tunisian people however, with elections expected within weeks. The EU can play a crucial role in this transformation but only if it shifts its support to those who want a real, pluralist democracy to emerge in Tunisia.

"The European Parliament has again distinguished itself through its silence, with the EPP and socialist groups refusing a Green demand for an EP resolution."

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 12:44:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
France24 - Three ministers quit Tunisia's new unity government
Tunisia's junior minister for transportation says he and two other ministers with ties to a top labor union have resigned from the government formed after the president was driven out by a national uprising.

The walkout undermines Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi's hopes of quelling the country's simmering unrest by forming a new government that includes members of the opposition to the regime that controlled the country for more than two decades. It was not immediately clear if the resignations could cause the government to fall.   Junior Minister for Transportation and Equipment Anouar Ben Gueddour told The Associated Press Tuesday that he had resigned along with Houssine Dimassi, the Labor Minister, and Minister without Portfolio Abdeljelil Bedoui.   They are all members of a general national labor union.



"People only accept change when they are faced with necessity, and only recognize necessity when a crisis is upon them." - Jean Monnet
by Melanchthon on Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 09:19:03 AM EST
You beat me to it...

AFP: Resignations rock Tunisia government

The resignation of three ministers rocked Tunisia's fledgling unity government on Tuesday as protesters vented their anger at the new leadership just days after the ouster of the Arab state's strongman.


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 Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 09:34:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Tunisie : trois ministres démissionnent, le gouvernement contesté - LeMonde.fr

L'Union générale des travailleurs tunisiens, la puissante centrale syndicale, qui a joué un grand rôle dans les manifestations ayant provoqué la chute de Ben Ali, avait demandé dans la matinée à ses trois représentants de quitter le gouvernement, affirmant qu'elle "ne [reconnaissait] pas le nouveau gouvernement".

Peu après, selon l'agence AP, un quatrième membre du gouvernement a également démissionné, le ministre de la santé Mustapha Ben Jaafar du parti d'opposition FDLT. Le ministre de la culture, toujours selon AP, serait également sur le point de quitter le gouvernement.

Par ailleurs, les syndicalistes siégeant au Parlement et à la Chambre des conseillers (équivalent du Sénat), "ont démissionné", a ajouté un porte-parole. La centrale syndicale s'est également retirée du Conseil économique et social.



"People only accept change when they are faced with necessity, and only recognize necessity when a crisis is upon them." - Jean Monnet
by Melanchthon on Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 10:00:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
France24 - Four ministers quit unity government as protests continue
Health Minister Mustapha Ben Jaafar of the FDLT opposition party also resigned, party member Hedi Raddaoui told The AP. The culture minister, Moufida Tlatli, told The AP she was considering resigning but was consulting her supporters first.   Tunisia's interim leaders have sought to stabilize the country after riots, looting and an apparent settling-of-scores after Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia on Friday.


"People only accept change when they are faced with necessity, and only recognize necessity when a crisis is upon them." - Jean Monnet
by Melanchthon on Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 10:12:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
France24 - Ministers quit Tunisia unity govt as protests continue
Education Minister Taieb Baccouch also resigned, a member of Baccouch's inner circle told FRANCE 24 Tuesday.


"People only accept change when they are faced with necessity, and only recognize necessity when a crisis is upon them." - Jean Monnet
by Melanchthon on Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 10:40:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Upon a little reflection all seem to have concluded that the honor of being in the "coalition" government was not worth the risk of belonging when they had not really had an opportunity to negotiate or extract any price for their membership.

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 Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 10:15:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Apart from your cynicism, do you know of anything that supports your claim?

Actually, three of these ministers resigned after the trade union of which they are members decided not to support this interim government.

"People only accept change when they are faced with necessity, and only recognize necessity when a crisis is upon them." - Jean Monnet

by Melanchthon on Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 10:44:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Only the "logic of the situation". Though it would appear that it was the union that made that decision. Given that the government is very status quo it is hardly surprising.

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 Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 12:04:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The transition government presented is not working yet right?

I am under the impression that what we are seeing now is remnants of the old regime, possibly under the control of relevant ministers (internal minister and defence minister should be keys) trying to form a new government for a transitional period. For the former opposition the critical question should be what it is transitioning to, and if the old players can be trusted to be part of the transition. If the ministers that has control over the guns can not be trusted, opposition candidates have little reason to accept other ministries as they are at risk to be held hostage (figuratively, but might also become a literal situation).

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 03:49:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You have properly spelled out much of "the logic of the situation" for this revolution at this time.  And events can clarify or obscure the positions of all involved. Plus, as time goes by new parties can organize and begin to impact the situation. I suspect we are seeing this process start:

Tunisia's caretaker government in peril as four ministers quit  Guardian

Tunisia's caretaker prime minister was battling tonight to convince the nation that the interim government could lead the transition to democracy, after four opposition members quit in protest.

After only one day in existence the temporary government, designed to prepare for full democratic elections after the fall of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali's dictatorship, was in difficulty. Three ministers in the important opposition UGTT trade union quit, including transport and labour ministers, saying they had "no confidence" in a government that still featured members of the RCD party that ruled under Ben Ali. Then the health minister, Mustapha Ben Jafaar, head of the FTDL opposition party, quit for the same reason.

Several hundred protesters, led by trade unionists and leftwing opposition parties, took to the streets of Tunis demanding that the new cabinet be purged of the old guard that had served Ben Ali. The peaceful protests were violently repressed by riot police who fired teargas into the crowd and pummelled protesters to the ground with batons and kicks. The protesters, singing the national anthem, repeatedly tried to regroup around the city and were repeatedly brutally broken up and forced to flee screaming into side streets

....

At the headquarters of the PDP opposition party, members of the party's executive committee held what one source called "very intense discussions" this afternoon but decided to stay in the government. The party felt the UGTT's decision of no confidence was "irresponsible", a committee member said. The PDP is believed to be preparing to propose a general amnesty and demand an official separation of the RCD party from the workings of the state when the government holds its first cabinet meeting on Thursday.

The exiled opposition leader Moncef Marzouki today returned from 20 years of exile and has announced that he intends to run in the presidential elections. "Don't let anyone steal this blessed revolution from you," said Marzouki. "Don't waste the blood of our martyrs. We don't want any revenge, but we are fast with our principle that this horrible party does not return."



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 Tue Jan 18th, 2011 at 08:09:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
this is the kind of attitude Robert Fisk targeted:

One Small Revolution - NYTimes.com

Another thing to keep in mind: in terms of American interests and regional peace, there is plenty of peril in democracy. It was not democrats, but Arab autocrats, Anwar Sadat of Egypt and King Hussein of Jordan, who made peace with Israel. An autocrat firmly in charge can make concessions more easily than can a weak, elected leader -- just witness the fragility of Mahmoud Abbas's West Bank government. And it was democracy that brought the extremists of Hamas to power in Gaza. In fact, do we really want a relatively enlightened leader like King Abdullah in Jordan undermined by widespread street demonstrations? We should be careful what we wish for in the Middle East.

Most of Kagan's column is just... a bit out of this world, to say the least.

by Nomad on Sun Jan 23rd, 2011 at 05:12:17 PM EST
Most of it seemed a rather typical realpolitik analysis from a US point of view, however impolitic it may be to put it in a NYT editorial. What is missing is an appreciation of how Turkey having a secular ally in the Arab world might be advantageous in the long run.

His historical and political analysis of the problems in various other Arab states seems apropos. After Egypt,  Turkey and, possibly, Morocco, it is a reasonable argument that Tunisia does have the longest historical tradition of state continuity and identity in the area. And the decades long effort at secular nation-building that occurred in Tunisia is comparable only to modern Turkey. Certainly the problems faced by states from Lybia to Syria are significant if varied.

My take is that, rather than seeing Tunisia as a model for other Arab nations to follow in terms of overthrowing autocratic governments, the likely outcomes of which seem quite dicey, it would be better to support further development of popular rule in Tunisia as an example of practical Arab nation-building. The region has no shortage of rather brittle states at present. I do not find the nature of these states even in ten years to be at all clear and it seems not at all inconceivable that one or more could go the route of religious nationalism, as has been the case in Iran.

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 Sun Jan 23rd, 2011 at 11:09:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And somehow this never applies to the U.S.'s involvement itself. The best way to achieve peace in the middle East, according to the NYT, would presumably be for the U.S. to withdraw, and ask the Chinese to do something about it.
by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on Mon Jan 24th, 2011 at 01:47:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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