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Tunisia: The Struggle for Legitimacy

In Tunisia, a new government is being formed under the leadership of the RCD (the party of the fallen dictator) and with the participation of some legalized opposition parties.  All parties that were illegal under the old regimes are being excluded, however, and this is stirring up a lot of controversy among parts of the Tunisian population who feel that the Revolution is being driven away from its ideals.

The main view of the opposition is that the people who made the revolution are not represented and that by keeping the RCD on board and even at the steering wheel the former regime is perpetuating itself.  On the other hand, the pro-coalition voices stress that this is only a transition, necessary to avoid plunging the country in chaos.  Some argue that, now that the revolution deposed the tyrant, the country must seek reconciliation, and they also argue that the RCD has hundreds of thousands of members and excluding them would exclude important segments of society.  However, most of these members were in the RCD not for an ideology or a vision, but because a party card was synonymous with personal advancement under the old regime.  I wonder if the RCD will have more than a few thousand hardcore Ben Ali loyalists if things are left to take their natural course.  But even if the RCD were a real party with a real base of supporters, it is now the duty of these people — if they want national reconciliation — to distance themselves from the past and its crimes by changing their party’s name and going to the opposition.

“Why should national reconciliation be the responsibility of the oppressed?” many rightly ask.  And they also believe that the best strategy to use now is a transitional committee representing all currents of the people and its trade unions and excluding the RCD as such while including some independents who are not far from it and that this committee should lead the country into transition towards a free and fair election where the chances of all the parties are equal.

In my opinion, the Americans and the French have certainly played a role in convincing parts of the mild opposition to support this government in order to guarantee continuation of the old economic structure and its integration as a service economy for France, plus the political and military alliance with the U.S and NATO.

The risk is that this government will not be so transitory after all and will only serve as an excuse to win more time and allow intelligent services and regime loyalists to work on their strategy to take back control of the country, albeit under another leader who will govern slightly differently than Ben Ali but will be just as autocratic and corrupt and pro-Western.  This is a real risk and the people started protesting against this government today and in Tunis the governmental police used tear gas against the demonstrators.

On a side note: 6 Algerians, 1 Egyptian, and a Mauritanian burned themselves in clear attempts to emulate the igniting act of the Tunisian revolution.


Dyab Abou Jahjah is founder and former president of the Arab European League.   This article was first published in his blog Abou Jahjah Comments on 17 January 2011; it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes.




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