Tunisia: new government already in crisis

The following is a report from Jan. 19 L’Humanité translated by Scott Hiley.

The Tunisian transitional government, which held its first Cabinet meeting today, Jan. 20, is already facing protests for keeping within its ranks members of overthrown President Ben Ali’s administration.

“The most important point we will consider,” says a government source, is “the plan for general amnesty,” announced on Monday by the prime minister. The other important business of the day will be application of the principal of the separation of the state from the former ruling party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally, which, according to some, must disappear from the political landscape altogether.

The three ministers belonging to the central labor party, the Tunisian General Labor Union, stepped down the day before, at the request of their organization, in order to denounce the continued presence in the government of members of Ben Ali’s CDR. Opposition member Mustafa Ben Jaafar, the minister of Health, suspended his participation in the government.

In an attempt to pacify Tunisians, interim President Foued Mebazaa and Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi broke on Tuesday with the Constitutional Democratic Rally party.

“It is not enough. I don’t think the population will accept it. People want to see a definitive end to the CDR,” declared Abdellatif Abid, a member of the political bureau of the Democratic Forum for Labor and Liberty.

These announcements take place in the context of a vigorous backlash against the composition of Monday’s new government, in which eight members of the former dictator’s administration – all members of the CDR – were once again admitted to key positions. This step roused massive protest and led three ministers from the central labor union federation, the TGLU, to step down.

Yesterday, thousands of Tunisians showed their anger in Tunis and in several other cities, notably Sfax (eastern central Tunisia), the country’s economic capital, and Sidi Bouzid (western central Tunisia), the cradle of the “Jasmine Revolution.”

In Sousse (eastern central Tunisia) and Tataouine (southern Tunisia), protesters climbed the facades of CDR headquarters to remove and destroy flags and symbols of the party.

In the capital, Tunis, police used clubs and tear gas to violently scatter a thousand protesters, including, for the first time, Muslims.

“We can live with just bread and water, but we can’t live with the CDR,” chanted the protesters.

Translator’s note: I have given English names and abbreviations for political parties.  Here are their French equivalents: Constitutional Democratic Rally (CDR)=Rassemblement Constitutionel Démocratique (RCD); Tunisian General Labor Union (TGLU) = Union Général Tunisienne du Travail (UGTT); Democratic Forum for Labor and Liberty (DFLL)=Forum Démocratique du Travail et de la Liberté (FDTL).

Photo: (l’Humanité)



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