Hm ok so if I understand rightly...a young blogger was instrumental in keeping information flow/encouragement going. Couple of others were also internet sly and thus led the opposition who helped force out the president and now his right hand guy has taken over the governing - just for six months! Really! - and handed out positions to the opposition leaders that don't really sound like they hold any power. Hm. I'll take six months seems like just enough time for them to root out a big group of the opposition / protesters and make examples of them so the Prime Minister can secure his power for $1000, Alex.
What really struck me as I read this article and other recent ones from the mainstream US press, is the fair and accepting tone when speaking about the dissidents. That's certainly fine, but also raises the obvious question of how much that appears in any country's press is filtered through that country's relations with the ruling party/big business/country/policy/etc. that is being reported upon.
Everyone living here during 2006 had to monitor the local news, including the dissident radio station, in order to get a handle on what was going on. Our families back home were hugely alarmed by the news they got, which was often inaccurate and slanted in the favor of official authority.
The main thing that is obvious is that this is not a "revolution" in the traditional sense. In spite of all of the (not just) Trabelsi corruption, the economy is functioning and people want to keep it functioning. In many cases, this means keeping some of the people of the former regime in key positions, while still keeping a close eye on them.
The buzz that I am getting (including from my Tunisian colleagues, who hated Ben Ali but who are middle aged, middle class people and therefore scared shitless about losing what they have) is that the citizens are all keeping themselves on high alert, particularly the younger elements, and will refuse to relinquish any of the liberties that they have just gained.
Just to be mildly argumentative for a moment, for the sake of continuing this dialogue ...
I believe that the change in Tunisia does in fact constitute a revolution, as enough other things beside the economy were changed for it to warrant that designation. And throughout history, whichever new factions that were in place after a revolution did have to remain on high alert, exactly as you describe.
Your colleagues fears are most understandable. Are they mostly happy about the ousting of Ben Ali, or simply more concerned about what happens next? In the article I linked in #35, it's pointed out that Amamou identifies himself as part of the anticopyright Pirate Party. So yeah, you can see how people whose economic lives have been built within the capitalist system would be nervous about that statement.
From my tiny, undoubtedly inaccurate viewpoint, if the new people pick their battles, as Amamou seems to be doing, and if they hang in there until the elections, a healthy new order could well be established. Take, for instance, the four new ministers who resigned Tuesday in protest of the continued role of the old party. Are they overly high-principled? hot heads? leaving because they were too de-fanged to be effective? what?
And I will continue to say that it is not a "revolution" because the objective of the vast majority is not to completely change society -- just to eliminate corruption, repression and censorship.
I would venture to say that most people are not even in favor of a free election, because there is always the fear the Islamic fundamentalism will rear its ugly head, just as happened in Algeria, and in such a case, most people will approve of the elections being "cancelled" by the army, the same as in Algeria. Of course, that led to more than a decade of terrorism in Algeria and perhaps 200,000 deaths.
Believe it or not, a lot of people are willing to pay that price to prevent religious fanatics from taking control of the country.
As for the resigning ministers, it is just a matter of positioning themselves before the elections, nothing more. This improves their electoral prospects.
Today, the French news was interviewing mostly only Tunisian students, since the schools reopened today. It was a great pleasure to see how excited they were about the "new Tunisia" although there was one girl in a veil, thrilled that nobody stopped her from wearing it to school today for the first time ever. Tunisia has had an anti veil law far longer than France. Unfortunately, "freedom to regress" is not one of the freedoms that I value the most.
I was amused by this poster by the NPA plastered around Paris (NPA = Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste). It's a Trotskyist party, which normally should have scoffed at the events in Tunisia as a bourgeois movement manipulated by greedy multinational corporations. But they have missed out on so many worthy events over the years while engaging in semantic somersaults that it is a nice change to see them actually supporting something rather than denouncing it.
Apparently, Zinedine Benali had a "serious vascular incident" this morning and is in a coma in a hospital in Jeddah. Tunisia is super lucky to have thrown him out already -- they would have had to pay for a huge state funeral (and our tax money would have sent representatives from around the world to attend) and then he would have been replaced by some other corrupt person to whom people would have tried to give the benefit of the doubt, maybe for years.
The interim prime minister finally resigned today. And another casualty is the French minister of foreign affairs, who also resigned today, because she did just about everything wrong that it was possible to do wrong in the Tunisian situation.
Yes, I figured it out! By humming and da-da-daing the tune - Un homme, une femme!
And Wiktionary confirms it:
Adjectif: chabada masculin et féminin identiques invariable
(Figuré) (Familier) Qualifie une liste de candidats lors d’un scrutin de liste, et qui compte alternativement un homme puis une femme, conformément à la "loi n° 2000-493 du 6 juin 2000 tendant à favoriser l’égal accès des femmes et des hommes aux mandats électoraux et fonctions électives".
I first read the story in El País (a Spanish-speaking friend sent it to me); in Spanish, this is called a "lista cremallera" Una cremallera has several meanings in Spanish, but here it refers to a zipper: es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cremallera_(textil) I'm posting this for the cool little animation.
Ben Ali cannot be extradited from Saudi Arabia, which promises safe haven to any Muslim who respects its own laws.
We did indeed have a rather weird ad campaign in France for returning to Tunisia. France is after all the country that supplies the most tourists, and visits are down about 70%.
In terms of tourist slumps being an advantage, I went to Indonesia with a friend shortly after the Bali bombings, when there was not a tourist to be seen anywhere. About 90% of the Indonesians seemed to love to see us, especially if they were in the tourist trade, along the lines of "thank you so much for still being here because we are really suffering from the events." The other 10% emanated from people who probably hate any sort of foreigner and made me feel they were thinking "what a shame that the bombing purge was not totally successful in getting rid of the decadent tourist scum."
A place like Tunisia is completely different, because the events concerned the Tunisians themselves and not exterior parties, with whom most people have no issues.
One year on, Tunisia remembers young man whose death began the Arab Spring
By Harriet Alexander, Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia 6:54PM GMT 17 Dec 2011
It may be a remote place that no one had ever heard of until a year ago, but now the Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid has become famous as the place where the Arab Spring began.
There is no map to guide you to this graveyard, and no signs showing the way. On the outskirts of a dusty town deep in the Tunisian interior, the rows of tombs raised above the sandy plain attract neither tourists nor treasure seekers.
But for all its seeming insignificance, in this remote corner lies the birthplace of the Arab Spring.
Today the family of Mohammed Bouazizi – his six siblings, mother and step-father – gathered at his grave to pay their respects.
"He shook the Arab world," said his mother Mannoubia. "He changed things in a radical way."
Mr Bouazizi had never intended such a dramatic outcome. The 26-year-old Tunisian fruit vendor only wanted to make a living. But when his fruit cart and produce was confiscated by a local policewoman because he did reportedly not have the right licence, his frustrations boiled over.
After the town governor's refusal to hear his plea for its return, that same morning - Dec 17 last year - he sat down in front of the Sidi Bouzid state office, poured fuel over himself and set himself on fire.
He died 18 days later. And a fortnight after his death, as unprecedented anti-government protests raged throughout the country, the dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali had fled to exile in Saudi Arabia.
I saw his mother intereviewed on France24. She said the family had been forced to leave the town because they were getting so much hassle from people, the press at first all day long. Then neighbours started saying that they had received money from the state and it became uncomfortable.
Meanwhile, the policewoman who started it by slapping the guy (she claims she didn't), spent 3 weeks in jail then finally got her job back in October. She claimed she was made a scapegoat over the entire affair.
After 4 years of turmoil, Tunisia has finally completed its democratic process successfully. The legislative elections earlier this year were a success, and the second round of the presidential election just ended Sunday with the victory of the candidate of the secular party over the candidate of the Islamist party, by 11 points (55.5% vs. 44.5%). Tunisia will definitely be the Arab country to watch in the coming years to see if democracy is compatible with Islam. Even though Turkey already seems to have proven this, another country is needed to validate the situation.