Thursday, February 28, 2013

Tunisia Nabs Suspects in Politician's Murder

This article, taken from a February 25th post on Al-Jazeera, was written because two arrests have been made in the murder of Tunisia’s political opposition party’s leader, Chokri Belaid, which took place on February 6th.  From what has been disclosed about the arrests, the murder consisted of a single gunman and a getaway driver.  Many Tunisians, both a part of and separate from Belaid’s political party, are following the claim made by Belaid’s family which accuses the current party in government, the Ennahda party, of plotting Belaid’s murder.  While the article does not stress this point, they bring it up with uncertainty.  I also took away that the protests that followed Belaid’s murder were not merely out of suspicion of a governmental conspiracy but rather served as an outlet for the Tunisians to show their frustration with the lack of political progress that has been made since Ben Ali’s departure back in 2011.
Although this situation has received only a little of the attention it deserves, Tunisia is in the lead of the Arab Spring countries and they are being watched to see if political success is possible.  Tunisia is in a precarious position right now.  To the Tunisian people, it’s not just about whether they accept what their government is telling them, that they had no hand in Belaid’s murder, because if they do accept this the ignition that started the new rounds of protest calling for political reform will be burnt out thus halting any new momentum they might have gained.  This would be disastrous for all of the Arab Spring countries because if the little, non-populous Tunisia cannot change their government, the rest of the Arab world will be sent a signal that change might not come.  This leaves the government scrambling to find non-disputable evidence that they were not responsible for Belaid’s murder and hoping that by doing so they will remain in control without the mass protests.
Tunisia’s current calls for a government overhaul are best described by the preference falsification model.  There was obvious mass support for the original revolution that took place in February 2011 but once elections were held and a new government took shape, the majority of people seemed complacent to watch the newly formed democracy take shape.  The government did not know how much time they had to form a working democracy but I assume they felt that they had more time than two years.  Once this murder took place, Tunisians used it as a tool to air their grievances.
The article also mentioned that the Ennahda controlled parliament had rejected the prime minister Hamadi Jebali's urge to turn the government into one of technocrats.  Jebali promptly resigned after this failure.  This was a good first step for policy makers to regain control of their constituents because it signaled that they were not planning to change the government as soon as their main opposition was out of the way.  I feel that the only way to fully end these protests is to find solid evidence that Belaid’s murder was not a governmental conspiracy.  This must be done soon so the events that took place in Tunisia in 2011, where the man set himself on fire in protest after police kicked him around, even though later it was discovered that police did not abuse him, do not happen again.  This needs to be a single issue protest that can be resolved without taking on a life of its own.
"Tunisia Nabs Suspects in Politician's Murder." Al-Jazeera. 25 Feb 2013: n. page. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. <>.


  1. It'll be really hard for a non government entity to find proof that it was not a government conspiracy. This type of investigation would need to be spear headed by an international organization to avoid bias and to make sure a fair investigation is going on.

  2. I agree with Soma when it comes to finding legitimate evidence proving that the Ennahda party had nothing to do with Belaid's murder. However, the major criticism remains outside of the government conspiracy. It lies with the understanding the Islamist-led govt. had been shy to denounce and curb violence from their own party and religious zealots. Until the coalition begins to fairly prosecute such violence and general acts of extremism, it is difficult for the average Tunisian to trust in its reforms.

    I also want to question the language of Tunisia being "in the lead." Do you mean it is the closest in the MENA region towards a peaceful transition to democracy?

    Lastly, I disagree with the general idea that Tunisia will have such a major impact in the region. With its small pop., it seems rather that general discord would not halt ongoing progress (or not) in neighboring countries. This argument seems to be applied to most countries in MENA, as seen in the two articles about Syria for tomorrow. Why would such a failure prove fatal to the region? How connected are all these countries?

  3. I do not believe this has been an issue of preference falsification. Based on personal experience, I can attest to the dedication of urban Tunisians in remaining extremely politically cognizant and continuing to be active in the formation of their country's government. They have been patient in giving Ennahda a chance (playing by the rules of democratice process), but they haven't been quiet over the last two years. International media just hasn't chosen to report on it.

    It is condescending to say that Tunisians shouldn't latch onto national events like this in the same way they did with Bouzizi. That's like saying the Gabby Giffords shooting shouldn't inspire national dialogue about gun rights in America. A political assassination linked to religious extremists who are in the pocket of the ruling coalition should absolutely "take on a life of its own" to change the status quo.

    In contrast to Quinn's opinion, I believe Tunisian politics are extremely important to the region, seeing as they concern the same issues (Islam and democracy, modernization, secularism, relations with America, the Gulf, Asia, and Europe, etc.) that other countries contend with. This is especially pertinent concerning parallels between Egyptian and Tunisian party politics currently, as both are at such a crucial tipping point in their transitions.

  4. It will definitely be interesting to see if the government is able to prove it was not involved in the murder. But even if so, there will still likely be a great deal of skepticism. To me the protests illustrate the lack of creditably and legitimacy the people desire from their government, regardless of the governments involvement in the murder. And I do think there is some truth to the notion that what plays out in Tunisia will likely have spillover effects to other regions. As mentioned, if a place such as Tunisia, with a relatively homogeneous and small population, continues to struggle with creating legitimacy and stability, it will defiantly send a message to other regions and their optimism, or lack thereof, for post-revolutionary success. Of course it has only been a couple years, so only time will tell.