Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali announced on February 6th that he planned on developing a government composed of apolitical technocrats, leading to a “cabinet reshuffle” (Yaros). This interim cabinet would help facilitate the transitional government’s work of drafting a new constitution, restructuring the government, and organizing elections. Despite the fact that the Prime Minister’s party, Ennahda, did not agree with the decision, he has made it clear he plans to move forward. The Prime Minister declared on Saturday that the new interim government would be unveiled by the middle of this week. As of February 10th, Jebali has threatened to resign if his design for a technocratic cabinet is not accepted.
|Protesters on Habib Bourguiba Avenue (Feb 9th, 2013)|
On Saturday, February 9th, approximately 3,000 Ennahda supporters gathered on Habib Bourguiba Avenue to demonstrate their support for the Prime Minister and Ennahda party. Habib Bourguiba Avenue is the same location as the “epicenter” of the revolution in 2011 that ousted then President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.
However, as of February 10th, the three ministers of the secular party of Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki have been withdrawn. The party claims that they have not seen their demanded changes in the cabinet. A party official from Congress for the Republic, Samir Ben Amor, stated that this withdrawal had nothing to do with Jebali’s proposed cabinet, but that the foreign and justice ministers had not been changed. Nevertheless, this move has effectively weakened Jebali’s already precarious and unsupported plan.
While disconcerting, this political unrest illustrates Noueihed and Warren’s point that “Unlike elsewhere in the region, the battle for Tunisia will largely be fought by internal parties rather than external players”(95). Additionally, the debate between the Ennahda and secular parties illustrates the hopefully successful move from a single-party regime to a government where there is legitimate competition between parties.
The rapidly changing dynamics within the country are significant, particularly between the Ennahda and secular parties and their support of Jebali’s new cabinet, because they will determine the future of the Tunisian government. The demonstration by Ennahda supporters on the 9th illustrate the continued use of nonviolent resistance, which is possibly a ray of hope that conditions will not deteriorate into more violent attacks or assassinations. This is further supported by the statement by Noueihed and Warren that Tunisia “became a model of peaceful protest”(95), and it seems as if it will continue to be so.
|Demonstration in Tunis (February 7th, 2013)|
Although the Tunisian people were able to overthrow Ben Ali in less than a month, actual change is appearing to slow as the government struggles to restructure and legitimize itself. This could mean a indefinite continuation in nonviolent protests and demonstrations, or this could mark the beginning of a period of increased political violence, such as the assassination of Chokri Belaid. As we discussed in class, violent campaigns are often used a last resort; after two years of attempting to define “Tunisia today,” Tunisians may be feeling that the situation is dire enough to resort to political violence. Additionally, Aljazeera speculates, “If Ennahda refuses [Jebali’s] offer, Tunisia will just plunge into further uncertainty.” It will be the responsibility of Prime Minister Jebali to coordinate with his party as well as with President Marzouki to arrive at a compromise, rather than ostracize himself from Ennahda as well as the secular components of government. What will continued uncertainty mean for Tunisia?
“Dispute Plunges Tunisia into political limbo.” Aljazeera. Web. 10 Feb 2013. <http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2013/02/201321013419800855.html>
Fahim, Kareem and David D. Kirkpatrick. “New Uncertainty Grips Tunisia After Assassination.” The New York Times. Web. 7 Feb 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/08/world/africa/tunisia-assassination-protests.html?_r=0>
Noueihed, Lin and Alex Warren. “The Battle for the Arab Spring: Revolution, Counter-Revolution and the Making of New Era.” Yale University Press, 2012.
“Tunisia President to resign if new cabinet rejected.” Aljazeera. Web. 10 Feb 2013. <http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2013/02/2013291157142522.html>
Yaros, Bernard. “Live Updates: Tunisia Struggles to Form New Government.” Tunisialive. Web. 11 Feb. 2013. <http://www.tunisia-live.net/2013/02/11/live-updates-tunisia-struggles-to-form-new-government/>