Controversial Ex-PM Returns to Politics in Tunisia
Transitional Prime Minister and Ben Ali era figure Beji Caid Essebsi announced the formation of a new party at a rally Saturday attended by around 1,400 people. Essebsi’s new party, called Nida’ Tounes or Call of Tunisia, is intended to united all Tunisians in a national dialogue, but also in opposition to the current government’s handling of recent violence. An Ennahdha party spokesman called Essebsi’s new party irrelevant, and others criticized the move as merely a conduit for Ben Ali era politicians to return to political life.
Additionally, four men injured during last year’s revolution attempted suicide Monday in front of the Constituent Assembly building to protest the government’s failure to assist the injured as promised. Bystanders intervened to prevent the protest from succeeding. The men later said the government had failed to pay attention to the plight of those injured in the revolution and had failed to deliver on promised health care and employment.
Meanwhile, last week’s Salafist violence stemming from the La Marsa art festival has spread to Libya, where about 20 armed men stormed the Tunisian consulate in Benghazi and burned a Tunisian flag inside. The consulate was empty due to a holiday and no injuries were reported.
Philippe Perdrix posed [French] the question of whether culture will be the great martyr of the revolution, in light of last fall’s protests after the film Persepolis was shown on national TV and the recent riots. Despite these cultural setbacks, Perdrix still sees signs of a renaissance happening in Tunisia, as politicians call for national reconciliation at personal risk and as the economy starts to grow again. He quotes a director in the Ministry of Development and Planning who said, “we are learning democracy, and it isn’t easy.”
Also, J. Dana Stuster writes about the changing nature of the Arab Spring from mass protests for regime change to local movements for economic reform. Stuster adds that for the new democratic states like Tunisia, these movements have the power to bring significant quality-of-life improvements, but they could also prove destabilizing if the pressure is too great for these weak governments.