Hey! I was just reading the news and logged on here to see if anyone had any comments. I'm not politically nor historically informed enough to understand all the ramifications, but this has got to be a good thing, correct?
If you click on the Time logo below, it takes you to the story quoted in full here, plus related stories. One is "Why France is Remaining Silent on Tunisia Turmoil". Can anyone comment on that, please?
<-- click Tunisia Pushes Out Its Strongman: Could Other Arab Countries Follow? By Bruce Crumley 1 hr 42 mins ago
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.
The transformation of what began in mid-December as a wave of protests over employment and living conditions into a direct challenge of Ben Ali's strong-arm regime was acknowledged in the president's speech on Thursday. In addition to promising a cut in the skyrocketing prices of milk, bread, and sugar, the president stated that he would not stand for re-election. This followed his announcements on Tuesday that he was firing his Interior Minister and promising to free people arrested during the spreading wave of demonstrations. With at least two deaths reported during clashes in Tunis on Thursday morning - on top of a death toll officials had previously placed at 23, versus the more than 60 deaths cited by humanitarian groups - Ben Ali said Thursday night that he had ordered troops to stop using live ammunition to break up protests.
Opposition groups applaud the moves, but remain wary of an authoritarian leader actually paving the way for greater plurality. "It is very good that he has promised not to run in the election, [which] is something we have asked for for a long time," Najib Chebbi, leader of Tunisia's main opposition Progressive Democratic Party, told Reuters. "[These announcements] correspond to the expectations of civil society and the opposition...We await to see them [applied] in concrete detail."
Ben Ali's heavy-handed repression of opposition during his 23-year rule has made the difficulty of replacing him as significant as the desire to see it done. "There really is no single party or individual who could credibly step up and take over," says Karim Emile Bitar, a specialist on the Middle East and Arab world at the Institute of Strategic and International Relations in Paris. But should they go ahead, the newly called parliamentary elections could go some way to seeing Tunisia live up to what Bitar says is its reputation in the Arab world as a "trail blazer" of progress. He notes that Tunisia led Arab countries in obtaining independence and then building a relatively strong economy. It has also developed a large, well-educated middle class, and progressive society featuring an emancipated role for women - all of which are fueling the current protest movement. The rest of the Arab world, Bitar says, is now watching to see if Tunisia will lead the way towards greater democracy too.
"Like in most Arab countries, the push for change in Tunisia is being led by a large population of young, educated people who no longer accept the trade-off of economic stability in exchange for political repression - they want prosperity as well as democracy and liberty," he says. "This is something Western nations need to realize. The way to help democracy blossom is to stop viewing the only alternatives for government in Arab nations as either repressive regimes or Islamist extremists. There's a middle democratic road, and Tunisia may now be on it." news.yahoo.com/s/time/20110114/wl_time/08599204254100
Well, it looks like the evening news in France is going to be extended from 30 minutes to about an hour and a half. After all, 600,000 Tunisians live in France, and that is not even counting French citizens of Tunisian origin.
One of the things that will be under the greatest scrutiny in France with the change of regime is the fact that Tunisia has been one the most secular countries in the Arab world, with the Islamic veil completely forbidden in public places. What will be the religious orientation of the new people in power?
I was just watching films taken this afternoon in the streets of Tunis. I can't imagine how those police and plain-clothed police are not ashamed of kicking people in the head and beating them with their batons when they are on the ground.
To France's shame, Ben Ali is on his way to France. Like Baby Doc Duvalier and all that other scum.
Not exactly the (secular dictator) Ben Ali family's idea of a golden exile. They would have opted for the Côte d'Azur or Italy.
bixa, I know several Tunisian exiles, here and in France. I really doubt any have any intention of returning home, except for holidays, despite the beauty and ideal climate of that country (so much nicer than Saudi Arabia).
It is different from Cuba, where there was really a coherent ruling class ousted by a revolution. Even there, the kids and grandkids are Hispano-USians and I doubt they have any intention of returning to lord it over everyone else.
There are a lot of educated Tunisians though, at home and abroad.
The first priority of a lot of Tunisians is to hunt down the Trabelsi family. Yesterday, some young rioters went to Carthage where most of the Trabelsis have their luxurious houses and pillaged only the Trabelsi villas, not the other rich houses. The Trabelsi family has been a very personal affair with most Tunisians for many years -- most of my Tunisian colleagues practically spit on the floor whenever they talk about "Mme. Ben Ali." The Trabelsis took over most of the riches of the country over the years in totally corrupt ways.
Unfortunately for the pillagers, the Trabelsis managed to take all of their items of real value with them, because the rioters only got things like televisions and bottles of butane.
Apparently the Trabelsis managed to escape on a plane to Dubai just one hour before the army took over the airport.
I read that Mrs Ben Ali used to be a hairdresser (which is one reason Tunisians were so pissed off with her family becoming so rich once she married the president). She will be annoyed having to hide her hair under the veil in Saudi.
Actually, I don't see why they didn't just step down and stay in Tunisia. People weren't asking for their death, only for him to leave the presidency.
Bixa, there are not many Tunisians in political exile, just some of the intellectual elite. The vast majority of Tunisians who left the country did so to make more money or go to better schools, just like the other people of the Maghreb.
Bjd, I imagine that once Ben Ali stepped down and any legal investigation was begun, life would have become extremely uncomfortable for him and all of his family, in-laws, cronies, etc. They undoubtedly have nice little sums stashed here and there around the globe to help sweeten the bitterness of exile.
Kerouac, I was referring more to groups of people in self-imposed exile who might have been motivated to return with an eye to participating in government at a higher level once Ben Ali was gone. It appears that is not the case. Actually, if I were Tunisian, I would be more likely to elect those who had stayed and suffered with everyone else, unless they were actively working to better their home country while abroad.
I don't know how many Tunisians would have been outside the country working to better it.
Tunisia was always seen as being a good tourist destination, not at all as a country with problems or a police state. Besides, with only 2 presidents since 1956, it was not seen as unstable. Maybe this was why France hasn't said much about the troubles there, until they at least rejected Ben Ali's coming into exile here. Although I heard on the news that some of his family is here.
Naturally, the French newspapers are overflowing with speculation about the future of Tunisia. The main thing that has been pointed out is that the country has absolutely no charismatic leader waiting in the wings such as Vaclav Havel, Nelson Mandela or Lech Walesa, so there is going to be lots of negotiations and wheeling and dealing among the major forces until elections can be held. And, just as was the case in Algeria in 1991, if the army finds the election results unacceptable, t is likely to take power indefinitely.
So, anyway, the main players have been identified as --
Hamma Hammami, the leader of the banned Tunisian Communist Workers Party. He is a professor of literature and Arabic civilization.
Moncef Marzouki, leader of the banned Republican Congress party. He is a professor of medicine.
Néjib Chebbi, leader of the (legal) Progressive Democratic Party. He is a leftist lawyer.
Rached Ghannouchi, leader of Ennahda, the banned Islamic party, who lives in exile in London. The UK gave him political refugee status in 1993.
Rachid Ammar, the chief of staff of the army.
Although the interim regime is trying to respect the constitution, the leaders of the banned movements are protesting that it is unfair. The constitution says that elections must be held within 60 days of a "power vacancy" but the banned groups say that it is too short a time for them to fairly be able to organize and campaign for the elections.
Frankly, I disagree. I am totally in favor of short campaigns.
Under the circumstances, you'd think that they'd want a short campaign.
Sixty days might be too little to have giant photos of oneself printed up, to scrabble together money for tv ads, to find talented writers to produce some stirring rhetoric for one to stump around the country presenting, or for so many of the other things necessary to create an electable Frankenstein.
However, sixty days would be more than ample for all the leaders of the banned parties to form a coalition respectful of their various goals and of the needs of the country. Not only would it diffuse power plays, it would be a shining example for the bigger and supposedly better countries of the world.
Under the circumstances, you'd think that they'd want a short campaign. However, sixty days would be more than ample for all the leaders of the banned parties to form a coalition respectful of their various goals and of the needs of the country. Not only would it diffuse power plays, it would be a shining example for the bigger and supposedly better countries of the world.
I'ts so nice to see people who have not lost their ideals.
Really, Bixa, do you think any of these guys who see a shot at having power would be prepared to share it? The needs of the country?
... the prime minister promised to announce a new coalition government on Monday. ... Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi promised rapid action to fill the power vacuum. "Tomorrow we will announce the new government which will open a new page in the history of Tunisia," he said in a brief statement.
So the new government is in place, but all of the key ministries remain in the same hands as before, which does not please everyone. However, it has been affirmed that the people still in place have "clean hands."
Three personalities of the opposition have entered the government, as well as the "gimmick" of the government, web designer Slim Amamou, who recently spent 8 days in prison for his blogging activities. He is secretary for youth and sports in the government.
Elections will be held in about six months, as requested by the opposition, which have been greatly lacking in media exposure over the years and want time to make their views and programs known to the public.
I finished watching 3 back to back episodes of CSI-New York on one of the channels (that's how they do the American series here, because just one episode is considered pitifully short for an adult human being), and now I have switched to the Tunisian channel. "Mrs. Newscaster" is taking phone calls from EXTREMELY virulent callers -- I would absolutely love to understand what they are saying, but the only Arabic words that I can catch are things like "yes" "no" "see" "money" or "nation". Not quite enough to catch the gist of the debates.
I'm finding the serious blogs on the situation to be interesting reading. The beauty of a blog is that you know going in that it's colored by someones opinion, whereas supposed straight news can be terribly remiss in following proper journalistic principles.
During 2006 in Oaxaca, what was really happening and what got reported internationally by mainstream news agency sometimes were two entirely different things.
The French press has been claiming that several of the Tunisian rap artists have been very influential in what has happened. One of the top performers is Psyco-M and this 15-minute rap song positively mesmerized me, even without understanding any of the words (even though it is liberally sprinkled with French). The various images seem to cover the 20th century evolution of the entire Arab world, from Lawrence of Arabia to Tunisian Idol.