- Posted March 13, 2013 by
Tunisia to Vote on New Government
Prime Minister-delegate Ali Larayedh revealed today the new government that is to be formed following two weeks of grueling debate between the three major political parties, pending a few final revisions. The Islamic majority party Ennahda remained in tight control as the majority party, but secular and independent minorities, namely the Congress for the Republic and Ettakatol, were able to make progress in light of recent events. In February, opposition leader Chokri Belaid was assassinated, throwing the country once again into chaos and turmoil as blame was thrown on the Ennahda majority. This continued to instigate feelings of distrust in the government from the Tunisian people. However, politically, the result was an attempt at damage control by the Ennahda party.
Sensing instability, they agreed to some reconstruction, including four major appointments of minority party members. Othman Jerandi, a diplomat with 30 years of experience was named foreign affairs minister. Noureddine Bhiri, a former professor in commercial law has become the head of the justice ministry. Rachid Sabbagh, former president of Tunisia’s highest court, was given the position of defense minister, and Ben Jeddou, a former judge and lawyer with strong ties to the revolution will be Tunisia’s future interior minister. These changes represent a step in the right direction to balance power in Tunisian politics, but the political challenges run much deeper than a lack of equilibrium. They are also currently battling against themselves and the absenteeism that is running rampant through their government. It is estimated by Al Bawsala (البوصلة), a private company monitoring the Tunisian parliament that meetings commence an average of 73 minutes late and that only 41% of appointees attend.
It is the responsibility of this unstable and unorganized government to deal with one of the world’s toughest political landscape, where time is truly of the essence. In the two years since the revolution, the interim government has missed an endless number of deadlines, and the people have no faith in it anymore. Between the accusations of Ennahda’s personal militia that it refuses to disband being involved in violence against citizens and the Salafists (extreme islamist group) gaining power, their view is understandable. The various interim governments have also remained unable to deal with the high unemployment numbers and the raising food prices, leading the population to resent them. In an effort to stabilize the government and appease the people, the Ennahda have agreed to these new appointments and hope to have a constitution and general elections by the end of the year.
The resolution is expected to narrowly pass before the deadline this Friday. In the case that it does not, President Moncef Marzouki will choose a new Prime Minister-designate and they will attempt to create a new resolution before the country falls into the hands of new revolutionaries and extremists. They hope to move towards an Islamic based democracy, similar to what exists today in Turkey, balancing the religious and secular interests of the people and political parties, but it will not be easy. The conditions have deteriorated so dramatically that new protests are forming, and becoming more drastic. In Tunis yesterday, a man immolated himself outside of a government building after screaming that he was a young man (only 26) who could not find work despite his best efforts due to the economic situation. He then doused himself in gasoline, praised god, and lit himself aflame, just as Mohamed Bouazizi did to spark the Arab Spring movement more than two years ago.
In the next few days, Tunisia will determine whether they will take the next step towards democracy or delay it once more. Both sides appear hopeful, and the vote is expected to take place in the next few days.