Spotlight on Geopolitics

Whilst the military intervention in Libya continues to hold the attention of the international media, neighbouring Tunisia has embarked on the road to democracy. Thousands of civil society personalities have decided to work together to rid the country of Ben Ali’s nefarious legacy and to rebuild the Tunisian political system from the ground up.

In a recent interview for Jeune Afrique, Mrs. Sihem Bensedrine, a leading Tunisian human rights activist, has revealed the five priorities on the agenda of the revolutionaries. These are electoral law reform, reform of the media laws, of the justice system, of police practices and dealing with rampant corruption.

To achieve these goals, the Tunisian civil society has created a “high instance for the realisation of the revolution’s objectives”, a forum that includes NGOs, politicians, magistrates, human rights activists and union leaders. According to French-educated Mansour Moalla, former minister and a co-founder of Tunisia’s central bank, as well as of the Arab Institute of Company Managers, the main task of the new Constitutional Assembly would be the dismantling of Tunisia’s presidential republic. In his expert opinion, this should be replaced with a parliamentary republic, one in which the president would not be elected by direct vote. Both the government and the president would be elected by parliament, thus reducing the chances of political despotism or government irresponsibility. The new constitution would also include provisions for an independent judiciary, as a guarantee against human rights abuses and politically-motivated vendettas.

The RCD, Ben Ali’s former presidential party, has been disbanded, but as Mrs. Bensedrine points out, all government institutions and Tunisia’s security and police apparatus are still manned by RCD supporters. The party’s former members have ample financial resources and are organised in powerful networks bent on torpedoing the transition to democracy. Being aware of the West’s fear of militant Islam, for instance, some of their members donned Muslim garb and attempted to burn a synagogue in Tunis. On another occasion when a noted Islamic leader returned from exile, they organised an ad hoc protest, shouting secular slogans. Finally, the recent assassination of Polish Catholic priest Marek Rybinski is widely attributed to these networks, who are intent on proving the superiority of the Ben Ali regime’s “achievements”, such as religious tolerance.

As many qualified observers agree, Tunisia’s transition to democracy is going to be long and fraught with difficulties. A young and vigilant Arab street, however, is determined to help achieve the revolution’s objectives and prevent its derailment by reactionary forces. (source: Jeune Afrique)

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