Welcome to the new version of European Tribune. It's just a new layout, so everything should work as before - please report bugs here.

Tunisia On The Brink

by afew Fri Feb 8th, 2013 at 04:33:29 AM EST

Tunisia braces for mass protests - Africa - Al Jazeera English

Tunisia faces a general strike with tens of thousands expected to take to the streets after the murder this week of a leftist opposition leader sparked violent clashes with police.

The General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT) called the strike to coincide with the funeral of Shokri Belaid, a lawyer and vocal critic of the ruling Ennahda party who was shot dead outside his home on Wednesday by a lone gunman.

The strike call from Tunisia's most powerful trade union comes after the murder triggered demonstrations in both the capital, Tunis, and the central mining region of Gafsa, amid a deepening political crisis.

After the murder, Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali immediately announced a total government makeover with new ministers who would be technocrats, without party affiliation, tasked with running the country and preparing elections due later this year. According to Radio France this morning, Jebali (a "moderate", though Number Two of the Islamist party Ennahda), does not have the majority support of his own party for this change, that is hanging in the balance.

Accusations against Ennahda include that its radical wing blocks democratic process (by prolonging an already-existing crisis over the composition of the government, for example) while implicitly encouraging Salafist pressure through violence. The strong secular element of Tunisian society feels that it is up against a creeping takeover of democracy backed by terror tactics. Shokri Belaid was alleged to be first on a well-known list of opposition figures to be assassinated (with paradise promised to the killers).

Use this as an open thread to follow today's events.


Display:
Tunisia: Murder most foul - Features - Al Jazeera English
The resulting crisis has led to the collapse of the government, and could potentially doom the election that was set to take place later this year.

Many say the killing is unsurprising, and that the Islamist-led government bears a heavy responsibility for tolerating and fuelling a deep partisan divide and a culture of political violence.

A star of the Popular Front, a leftist political alliance of which his party is a member, Belaid had many supporters among those who accused the current government of failing to deliver on social justice and economic development.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Feb 8th, 2013 at 04:37:03 AM EST
Tunisia: Murder most foul - Features - Al Jazeera English

In October, Lotfi Naqdh - a regional leader of the secularist conservative Nida Tounes Party - was beaten to death in the southern town of Tatouine. His death followed an outbreak of violence between his party and government supporters, the first big flare-up of interparty violence.

The government claimed he died of a heart attack, but an autopsy last week confirmed that Naqdh had died as a result of lynching at the hands of government supporters. Said Chebli, the head of the Tatouine branch of Leagues for the Protection of the Revolution is one of the people implicated in Naqdh's killing.

Ali Fares, a MP of the ruling Ennahdha party, called on Thursday for Chebli and other suspects in the mob lynching to be released. "These people came out into the streets for the noble cause of defending the revolution, and instead of paying them homage, they have been incarcerated," Fares declared.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Feb 8th, 2013 at 04:37:25 AM EST
A Tunis, les islamistes d'Ennahda sous pression après l'assassinat d'un opposant In Tunis, the Islamist of Ennahda under pressure after the assassination of an opponent
Le parti islamiste Ennahda, au pouvoir en Tunisie depuis moins de deux ans, est-il au bord de l'implosion ? Vingt-quatre heures après avoir annoncé la constitution d'un nouveau gouvernement d'union nationale en réaction à l'assassinat de l'opposant Chokri Belaïd, exécuté mercredi 6 février en pleine rue, le premier ministre Hamadi Jebali a été désavoué par sa propre famille politique. "Nous avons refusé cette proposition prise sans consultation de la coalition ni du bureau exécutif d'Ennahda", expliquait, jeudi, Sahbi Atig, chef du groupe parlementaire du parti islamiste, majoritaire à l'Assemblée nationale constituante tunisienne.Is the Islamist party Ennahda, in power in Tunisia for less than two years, on the verge of implosion? Twenty-four hours after announcing the formation of a new government of national unity in response to the assassination of opposition Chokri Belaid, executed Wednesday, February 6th in the street, the Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali has been disowned by his own political family. "We rejected this decision without consulting the coalition or the Ennahda executive" , explained, Thursday, Sahbi Atig, parliamentary leader of the Islamist party, which holds the majority in the National Constituent Assembly in Tunisia.
Dans la soirée, au palais de Carthage balayé par de fortes pluies, les consultations allaient bon train entre le président Moncef Marzouki et les représentants de partis politiques. Mais le porte-parole de la présidence confessait "n'avoir aucune information". "Ou M. Jebali présente sa démission, ou bien celle de son gouvernement, mais pour l'instant ce n'est pas le cas", expliquait Adnene Mansar.In the evening, at the Palace of Carthage swept by heavy rains, consultations and representatives of political parties. But the spokesman of the Presidency admitted "having no information." "Either Mr. Jebali resigns, or his government does, but for now this is not the case," , explained Adnene Mansar.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Feb 8th, 2013 at 07:04:48 AM EST
In other words the centre of gravity of Ennahda is "radical", and a moderate like Jebali has no power at all.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Feb 8th, 2013 at 07:07:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The constitutional situation is unclear, for the excellent reason that the constitution hasn't been written yet. The Constituent Assembly, whose job it is, is deadlocked, unable to assemble the required two-thirds majority required to approve a text.

The announced intention of the Prime Minister of forming a "technocratic" government is pretty clearly out of order, however :

Tunisie : la transition démocratique en danger | Tunisie libre | Rue89 Les blogs Tunisia's democratic transition in danger | free Tunisia | Rue89 Blogs
Lors d'une conférence de presse, Adnane Manser, porte parole de la Présidence de la République a tranché :At a press conference, Adnan Manser, spokesman for the Presidency of the Republic declared:
« S'il veut remplacer l'intégralité de son gouvernements, Hamadi Jebali doit remettre sa démission au Président de la République qui est tenu de choisir le candidat proposé par le parti majoritaire à la Constittuante, donc Ennahdha."If he wants to replace his entire government, Hamadi Jebali must submit his resignation to the President of the Republic who shall select the candidate proposed by the majority party in the Constituante, which is Ennahdha.
Si un gouvernement n'est pas formé dans les deux semaines, c'est le Chef de l'Etat qui choisit la personnalité la plus apte. Mais la Constituante est toujours détentrice de la souveraineté. »If a government is not formed within two weeks, the Head of State then chooses the most suitable personality. But the Constituent still holds sovereignty. "
Cette déclaration a eu pour triple effet de réaffirmer l'ordre constitutionnel à un moment de flottement, de redonner la main à Ennahdha et de préserver le rôle de la troika, mais aussi d'affaiblir la position de Hamadi Jebali, du moins dans un premier temps.This declaration had the triple effect of reaffirming constitutional order in a moment of hesitation, to restore the initiative to Ennahdha and tp preserve the role of the troika, but also to weaken the position of Hamadi Jebali, at least in the short term.

The "Troika" is the three governmental parties : Ennahdha (which has 89 seats out of 217 in the Constituent Assembly),  Congrès pour la République and Ettakatol, which are secular parties of the left.

The governmental crisis was already open before the murder of Belaïd, by the refusal of the two other parties of the cabinet reshuffle proposed by the Prime Minister. They were resisting the hegemonic tendencies of Ennahdha. So the current Tunisian government probably has no majority in parliament.

A lot depends on whether Ennahdha can behave responsibly; this means compromise, or they will find no partners to form a government.

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

by eurogreen on Fri Feb 8th, 2013 at 08:30:05 AM EST
eurogreen:
by the refusal of the two other parties of the cabinet reshuffle proposed by the Prime Minister

The conflict was over the major ministries, which Ennahda claimed for themselves, while the coalition partners said they should be filled by "neutral" figures. The Ennahda base refused to accept that principle, and the coalition partners refused to accept Ennahda candidates. So Jebali was not in fact able to form a government.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Feb 8th, 2013 at 08:56:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Note that elections were to be held this summer, but that the date has not yet been fixed.

This is eerily reminiscent of the rise of fascism in Europe.  The best scenario I can see is that of a split in Ennahda, with Jebali and whatever "constitutionalists" he can muster forming a Muslim-Democrat party, leaving Ennahda as the radical-Muslim party it seems to be becoming.

Then, early elections, and we'll know the truth : now that Tunisians know what Ennahda wants, is that what they want?

by eurogreen on Fri Feb 8th, 2013 at 09:39:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Twitter / Sarah_bh: "@Papiillon: Al Jazeera diffuse ...
Sarah Ben Hamadi Sarah Ben Hamadi@Sarah_bh 23m

"@Papiillon: Al Jazeera diffuse les funérailles de #ChokriBelaid avec une bande son pré-enregistrée de slogans pro-gouvernentaux #FuckQatar"

"Al Jazeera broadcasts Chokri Belaid's funeral with a pre-recorded soundtrack of pro-government slogans"

Which raises the question, once again, of the difference between Al Jazeera English (fairly liberal) and the Arab version.

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

by eurogreen on Fri Feb 8th, 2013 at 10:45:23 AM EST
Al Jazeera was a pretty good news station. Then the revolution came rather close to home and the Emir had all this free press nonsense stopped.

The more interesting question for me is why the Emir thought sponsoring an independent news outlet would be a good idea. My best guess is that Qatar tried to run a soft power strategy contrary the Saudi's armed salafists everywhere strategy.

Von überall könnte das Volk, Urbrut alles Undemokratischen, Zelle des Terrors, über die gewählten Hüter von Wachstum und Wohlstand® kommen. - flatter

by generic on Fri Feb 8th, 2013 at 01:36:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Plus the recurring accusations that Qatar based interests are financing AQIM.
by Bernard on Sun Feb 10th, 2013 at 02:30:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Twitter / ThBresillon: Attente du cercueil dans la ...
Thierry Bresillon Thierry Bresillon@ThBresillon 1h

Attente du cercueil dans la pluie, le vent glacial et les effluves de lacrymo #chokribelaid

"Waiting for the coffin in the rain, the freezing wind and the odour of teargas"

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

by eurogreen on Fri Feb 8th, 2013 at 10:47:34 AM EST
Échauffourées en Tunisie pour les obsèques de Chokri Belaïd clashes in Tunisia for the funeral of Chokri Belaid
Jamais une foule aussi nombreuse ne s'était rassemblée pour des obsèques en Tunisie depuis celles, en 2000, d'Habib Bourguiba, le "père" de l'indépendance et premier président du pays. Scandant des slogans hostiles aux islamistes, au moins 50 000 personnes ont gagné les rues de Tunis, vendredi 8 février, pour participer aux funérailles de l'opposant Chokri Belaïd, dont l'assassinat a accentué la crise profonde que traverse le pays, berceau du "printemps arabe".As large a crowd hadn't gathered for a funeral in Tunisia since that of Habib Bourguiba, the "father" of independence and first president of the country, in 2000. Chanting slogans against the Islamists, at least 50,000 people were in the streets of Tunis, Friday, February 8, to attend the funeral of pooposition leader Chokri Belaid, whose assassination has accentuated the deep crisis facing the country, the birthplace of the "Arab Spring" .
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Feb 8th, 2013 at 11:11:48 AM EST
Échauffourées en Tunisie pour les obsèques de Chokri Belaïd clashes in Tunisia for the funeral of Chokri Belaid
des heurts ont éclaté, pendant l'inhumation, entre des manifestants et des forces de l'ordre. La police a tiré des grenades lacrymogènes et des coups de feu en l'air pour disperser des jeunes qui saccageaient des voitures dans les rues alentour, provoquant un bref mouvement de panique comme en ont témoigné sur Twitter des journalistes sur place.clashes erupted during the burial between protesters and security forces. The police fired tear gas and shots in the air to disperse young people pillaging cars in the surrounding streets, causing a brief panic as witnessed on Twitter by journalists on the spot.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Feb 8th, 2013 at 11:14:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Échauffourées en Tunisie pour les obsèques de Chokri Belaïd clashes in Tunisia for the funeral of Chokri Belaid
Un policier était dans le coma vendredi, après avoir été tabassé dans la nuit par des manifestants dans la ville de Gafsa, dans l'instable bassin minier tunisien, a appris l'AFP auprès de sources médicales et de la police. Le policier a été violemment sorti de sa voiture et tabassé par une foule de jeunes. Les manifestants, qui dénonçaient le meurtre de l'opposant Chokri Belaïd, ont aussi incendié un poste de police de la ville après que les forces de l'ordre se sont retirées à l'issue d'affrontements. - (avec AFP)A policeman was in a coma Friday after being beaten during the night by protesters in the city of Gafsa, in the unstable Tunisian mining basin, AFP has learned from medical sources and police. The officer was dragged violently out of his car and beaten by a mob of young people. The protesters, who denounced the murder of opponent Chokri Belaid, also torched a police station in the city after police withdrew following clashes. (with AFP)
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Feb 8th, 2013 at 11:17:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Western governments have succeeded in the past in installing thugs favorable to western interests. It probably is more difficult to promote the interests of a majority that actually want a more representative and democratic government. Can they let go of the bright shiny object of control for economic exploitation and actually help a pro-representative democracy majority succeed or will they try to hang on to influence at the cost of the entire society catching fire?

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 Feb 8th, 2013 at 02:52:31 PM EST
And, more to the point, do any really want to act as disinterested midwives to a more moderate and representative, but independent, government?

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 Feb 8th, 2013 at 02:53:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have a job seeing Western interests driving the process in Tunisia.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Feb 8th, 2013 at 03:09:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Tunisians are hypersensitive about foreign influence. Today's pro-Ennahda demonstration (rather a bust, 6000 people) featured prominent anti-French slogans, because of the French interior minister's comments about Islamic fascism in the context of Belaid's murder.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Sat Feb 9th, 2013 at 03:48:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not too surprising, given the long history of aversive influence and self-serving motivation for 'western' nations in Tunisia and, really, anywhere in Dar es Islam. Hence my question above.

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 Feb 10th, 2013 at 03:28:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a fair question.

With respect to France in particular, which has by far the closest relationship of any "Western" nation with Tunisia, it's necessarily complicated. The Socialists (Pierre Mendès France's government) organised the independence of Tunisia and Morocco in 1956, they were considered fairly exemplary operations as these things go. France had a mostly clientelist and mercantilist relationship with the regimes that emerged (monarchy in Morocco, secular authoritarian in Tunisia) in subsequent decades; this included the Socialist governments under Mitterand (whose foreign policy, on the whole, seems to be pretty much indistinguishable from that of the Right).

Sarkozy's government's first instincts were to help the Tunisian regime repress the Arab spring; but they were constrained by French public opinion to neutrality, then to effusive enthusiasm for the revolution. Current French governmental influence in Tunisia seems to be minimal. I can see no reason to suspect that Hollande's government would seek to re-establish any sort of economic dominion over Tunisia.

When the supporters of Ennahda demonstrate against France, they are not talking about economic interests. They are assimilating France with the secular regime of Bourguiba and Ben Ali. They think of secularism, rights for women etc. as colonial implants, and they aspire to an islamic regime free of these "foreign" influences (while welcoming the Saudi-inspired salafists who are introducing doctrines which are alien to their culture).

But they are, in all probability, a minority. Those Tunisians who are committed to democracy and a secular regime are not France's stooges. If Tunisia is on the brink of a civil war, it is in no way a colonial war.

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

by eurogreen on Mon Feb 11th, 2013 at 03:52:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]

Top Diaries