Sunday, February 10, 2013

Turmoil in Tunisia

Turmoil in Tunisia

Democracy: To be, or not to be? That is the question.

Tunisians carry the coffin of Chokri Belaid during his funeral procession in Tunis

                Wednesday’s assassination of Tunisian Democratic Patriots leader, Shokri Belaid, is yet another set back for a nation that has been plagued with social and political divide since the uprisings of 2010-2011. The murder of the left wing politician who was active and vocal in his opposition of the ruling coalition marks a new low point in the efforts to found a peaceful, democratic government in the North African nation. 

          According to Al Jazeera, “Many say the killing is unsurprising, and that the Islamist led government bears a heavy responsibility for tolerating and fueling a deep partisan divide and a culture of political violence.” The UK based human rights group Amnesty International has called for an independent investigation into Belaid’s death, as well as for the authorities to take a more proactive stance against the continuing political violence occurring within Tunisia. On Wednesday, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, the Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director of Amnesty International, said in a press statement; “Today's shocking killing must serve as a wake-up call to the authorities. It is their duty to protect all individuals, including those who criticize the government or Tunisia’s leading Ennahdha party, from violence. No group, regardless of its affiliation, can be above the law.” 


       It begs one to ask the question, can Tunisia find peace and democracy amongst social and political turmoil? After decades of Ben Ali and “The Family” wreaking havoc upon the citizens, can the Tunisian nation turn around in only a few years time and find democratic stability? 

         According to Al Jazeera,  “Ahead of the revolution in 2010, unemployment stood at 13 percent - giving rise to the discontent. Two years later, it is even worse, hitting 17 percent with 800,000 Tunisians out of work.” Perhaps the future holds another oppressive regime for the North African nation. Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali announced during a speech Wednesday that he will dissolve the Islamist-led government and form a national unity administration. Jebali plans to form a cabinet of technocrats to run the country until elections are held.

President Moncef Marzouki

            In the following days since the announcement, the secular party of Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki has withdrawn its three ministers from the countries government, saying that its demands for changes in the cabinet have yet to be met. According to Al Jazeera, “The decision on Sunday by Marzouki's Congress for the Republic Party deals a further blow to Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali's government, already weakened by last week's assassination of secular opposition leader Shokri Belaid.” Jebali himself has threatened to resign unless his Ennahda party, who has rejected the idea thus far, and the other parties accept his proposals for an interim government. He is expected to present his new cabinet by the middle of next week at the latest. 
Tunisian PM Hamadi Jebali
     If his proposals are not met, it appears the Tunisian government will collapse. We are left with two questions; What does the assassination mean for the birthplace of the Arab Spring? And is the country's transition towards democracy in danger of being derailed?


Al Jazeera, "Tunisian president's party quits cabinet",

Published Feb. 10, 2013

Al Jazeera, "Tunisia: Murder most foul",
Published Feb. 7, 2012

Al Jazeera, "Tunisia in turmoil", 
Published Feb. 8, 2013


  1. In my opinion, stable democracies require leaders who are willing or required (by institutions, custom, or force) to step down at the end of their term. One of the difficulties we see among countries experiencing some semblance of a democratic transition is that they often lack this kind of leadership. George Washington was a great example of this. Even though he was presented with the opportunity to consolidate power after the revolution, he voluntarily stepped down.

    Will this derail the democratic movement in Tunisia? Not necessarily. It will be up to the people and the other institutions in the government to ensure that the government operates within the bounds of an effective democracy.

  2. To continue upon the notion of whether a democratic stable government can continue in Tunisia, much is unknown. The assassination of secular leader Belaid gives me a pessimistic outlook on the future of the new regime. Does political violence such as this pave the way for a more extreme style of Islamic governance in a historically secular nation? Seeing unstability like this seems like a perfect opportunity for a power grab by groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and alike.

  3. With a totally new government, some time is needed to sort out a new constitution. This type of unrest can derail the democratic transition process. It is hard to convince the majority that time is needed to make the changes that will better the country. I believe that the population is in a overthrow mindset and that because they are not seeing immediate results, they will try and oust the Constituent Assembly before they are given a chance to create the new government.