2011-01-17 Tunisia’s new government

 

After one month (to the day) of turmoil, Tunisia has announced a new interim government. Mohamed Ghannouchi, the Tunisian prime minister, has announced that the former defense, foreign affairs, interior and finance ministers will keep their key posts, and a number of opposition members will be assigned to ministerial posts

 

Najib Chebbi, founder of the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), will be minister of regional development, Ahmed Ibrahim, leader of the Ettajdid party, will be minister of higher education, and Mustafa Ben Jaafar, head of the Union of Freedom and Labour, will be the minister of health. The ministry of information, formerly devoted to suppression of information, is abolished in the new government. There is now a separation of the state from political parties, so the collection of parties will not fall under the control of a ruling party.

 

The government has committed to releasing all political prisoners and a ban on the activities of human rights groups will be lifted. Anyone with great wealth or suspected of corruption will face investigation. Internet and social media restrictions have been dropped and the government has promised “total freedom” for the media.

 

Al Jazeera reports:

 

Fouad Mebazza, Speaker of parliament sworn in as interim president, had asked Ghannouchi to form a government of national unity, and constitutional authorities said a presidential election should be held within 60 days.

 

 

 

Reaction:

 

Protests were still going strong prior to the announcement of a new government. Security forces used water cannon and tear gas and fired shots in the air to disperse the protest. Many have vowed to oppose any government that contains any of the old ministers, and the new government announced is primarily old ministers. The protesters want the old CDR party completely abolished, and new members appointed from within their ranks. From Al Jazeera:

 

About 1,000 people gathered in the capital’s main boulevard in a demonstration against the ruling RCD party, chanting: “Out with the RCD!” and “Out with the party of the dictatorship!”

One demonstrator, Monji Amari, said: “We are here to say ‘No’. We have had enough of this party of power. We do not want to see them any more. Together with Ben Ali they are responsible for the situation that we are in now.”

One of Tunisia’s best known opposition figures, Moncef Marzouki, on Monday branded his country’s new government a “masquerade” still dominated by supporters of ousted strongman Ben Ali.

“Tunisia deserved much more,” the secular leftist declared. “Ninety dead, four weeks of real revolution, only for it to come to this? A unity government in name only because, in reality, it is made up of members of the party of dictatorship, the RCD,”said Marzouki on France’s I-Tele.

He complained that, despite Ben Ali having fled the country to escape a popular revolt, his supporters in the former ruling party had retained key government posts, including the interior ministry “which is supposed to organise elections”.

(In fact, according Ahmed Friaa, Tunisia’s interior minister, 78 people have been killed in the country during the recent turmoil, almost quadrupling the official death toll. He also estimated that the unrest had cost the country’s economy $2.2 bn as a result of disruption of economic activity and lost export revenues.)

Rachid al-Ghannouchi (no relation to Mohamed Ghannouchi), the exiled leader of the Nahdha Movement party, told London-based Asharq Alawsat newspaper that leaders of his party had not been invited to participate in the negotiations in forming the new unity government.

Ghannouchi said he believed there was “deliberate alienation to Islamists in Tunisia”. But he added that “If we were invited in the future for taking part in the government, we would consider the offer”.

 

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