Thursday, September 19, 2013

Post-Jasmine Revolution: Tunisian Troubles & a Proposed New Road Map for National Dialogue

A Road Map for National Dialogue

When the Tunisian National Constituent Assembly (ANC) disbanded this summer in protest against the interim government led by the moderate Islamist Ennadha party, the ANC President Mustapha Ben Jaafar asserted that the work of the ANC would be suspended until a national dialogue took place.

Today, Ben Jaafar announced that the dialogue would begin early next week, and called for the return of members to Parliament.

The dialogue comes in the way of a proposal, sponsored by four Tunisian organizations.  Based on the public details of the proposal, it seems that it calls less for dialogue and more for an immediate government transition.

On 18 September 2013, the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), the Tunisian Industry, Trade and Handicrafts Union (UTICA), the National Bar Association, and the Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LTDH), presented a proposal that calls for the dissolution of the government and lays out specific steps toward formation of a new government.

Some of the details of the plan have been made public.  Below is the proposed agenda and timetable:

A First Plenary Session will be assembled.  Upon commencement of the dialogue, the following deadlines will apply:
*within 1 week: Creation and membership selection of an Independent High Authority for Elections
*within 2 weeks: Discussion and adoption of the Election Law
*within 2 weeks: Government must be formed by an "independent person" serving as Prime Minister
*within 3 weeks: Current Government (Ennahda) should submit its resignation
*within 4 weeks: Adoption of the Constitution, with assistance from an unspecified think tank

More details are needed to fully evaluate this new political development.  

My first reaction is that this road map is overly ambitious, both in its time table and agenda items.  I'm also confused by the "national dialogue" title - how national and inclusive will it be?  Will Ennahda be a participant?  How will it handle the Islamists and Salafists?

I haven't seen much about this proposal in the Western press yet but hopefully more details will be released.  Here's hoping the Jasmine Revolution leads to something better for this troubled country.

Some Background on Post-Jasmine Revolution Tunisia

Tunisia, home of the Jasmine Revolution that sparked the regional Arab Spring, is struggling.  It is troubled by political instability, insecurity, and a weakened economy.  

And it seems to have worsened in just over a year.

On 05 April 2012, The New York Times published a spread in its Travel section encouraging tourism to Tunisia.  The picturesque photos captured the palm trees and white curved architecture set against the brilliant blue of the Mediterranean, the historic fortresses and mosques, Roman ruins, and intricate tile work.  During author Seth Sherwood's visit to Tunisia, it was obvious that the revolution had hurt tourism.  However, he saw a silver lining and hope in the country, encouraging would-be-visitors that "Tunisia, while far from untroubled, offers a reassuring example of what might emerge from the wreckage."

Unfortunately for Tunisia, what has emerged from the wreckage is not altogether optimistic for its citizens or tourists.

This summer has been marked by a high profile political assassination, calls for the dissolution of the government, the arrests of two musicians and a journalist, a shuttered Parliament, and economic hardship as foreign investors steer away from troubled Tunisia.  

Increased Political Tension at a Breaking Point

Opposition elements have been critical of the Ennahda government for failing to keep its political promises; such broken promises have included holding elections in Spring 2013; reigning in their extremist followers; and addressing the increasingly dire economic situation.

Political tensions spiked this summer when a second high profile opposition leader was assassinated.  Tunisian Parliamentary member Mohamed Brahmi was assassinated on 25 July 2013 outside his home, in front of his family.  His party, The People's Movement, attributed his death to the governing party Ennahda, an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Protests erupted over his killing, and mourners at Brahmi's funeral chanted "Down with the party of the Brotherhood....The people demand the fall of the regime.""  Ennada denied its involvement and "condemned the assassination as a plot to derail Tunisia’s democratic transition."  

Prime Minister Ali Larayedh responded to the anti-government protests in a "defiant speech" that declared the interim government was committed to its temporary duties, saying "We don't want to stay in power. We are not addicted to it."  He asserted that the government was committed to a democratic transition with 1) a new constitution by August and 2) elections in December. 

That same day, on 29 July 2013, the National Constituent Assembly convened to demand the resignation of the government and the dissolution of the legislature.  One week later, ANC President Mustapha Ben Jaafar announced "I assume my responsibility as president of the ANC (assembly) and suspend its work until the start of a dialogue, in the service of Tunisia." 

The ANC remained shuttered throughout August and the first half of September.  

Anti-government protestors have set up camp outside Parliament, now protected by concertina wire.  One protestor, interviewed by The Washington Post, articulated the protestors' objective: "Ennahda needs to see what happened to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt ... We don’t want to put them in jail. We just want the main goals of the revolution: social justice, dignity and freedom.”

1 comment:

  1. UPDATE: Tunisia's Islamist government announced on Saturday, 28 September 2013, that it will resign after negotiations begin with its secular opponents to establish a new caretaker government in accordance with the now-accepted plan discussed on: