Acting Tunisian president, Fouad Mebazaa, has agreed to fulfill promises to break with the past, including a complete withdrawal of Ben Ali’s party, Rassemblement Constitutionnel Démocratique (RCD) from the interim government. But besides proof, Tunisians are asking for more. Both the acting President and Prime Minister were members of RCD.
Tunisia’s acting president, Fouad Mebazaa, yesterday (Wednesday) addressed the nation after hundreds of Tunisians had taken to the streets to demand the departure of former ministers of the Ben Ali regime from the transitional government with the Tunisian Workers Union (UGTT) maintaining its refusal to participate in government.
It is in a deleterious atmosphere that the head of the new government reiterated his “personal commitment to meet their demands and fulfill promises made to Tunisians, including the complete separation of the former ruling party, Rassemblement Constitutionnel Démocratique (RCD), from state apparatus.”
And whilst Fouad Mebazaa exposed his plans for “a general amnesty in the nearest possible future”, his speech has been widely criticized as seeking to sidestep the real issues that fueled the uprising; Criticisms that have not helped the fragile government as it continues to struggle to initiate announced reforms and projects.
Digging the dagger deeper, an article which dates from July 2009, culled from the daily Ashourouq newspaper, exposes an interview given by Abdelslam Jrad (Secretary General of UGTT) in which he declares his support for a fifth Ben Ali presidential term.
The appointment of some members of the new government who used to hold key positions in Ben Ali’s RCD party has been a slap in the face for many. The resignation of UGTT appointed ministers from the new cabinet, in addition to Abdelslam Jrad’s position, has contributed to sow doubts over their direction. Militants say that the sidelining of main opposition parties, including Ennahda Islamists and the Communist Workers Union Party of Tunisia (POCT), is continuously aggravating the crisis of confidence.
And although Foued Mebazaa lauds security forces “for their prowess” that has brought back a level of sanity after they “unmasked and arrested (…) gangs that have conspired against the country’s security”, whilst noting that the security situation has stabilized and is improving, analysts say that the real challenge is to make sure that the transition does not take place in a political vacuum.
Fears of a military takeover or even total anarchy have been expressed. In spite of Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi and Acting President Fouad Mebazaa’s resignation from RCD, opposition leader Mustafa Ben Jafaar of Forum démocratique pour le travail et les libertés (FDTL) who was appointed to head the health ministry has, in the meantime, “suspended” his participation in the new government.
“Because the RCD or what is left of it has duped us (…) we expected leading members of the RCD to be made part of the government. But what we want are technocrats, not people ‘spat out’ by the Tunisian people,” Khalil Zaouia, chief adviser to Mustapha Ben Jaafar told Le Figaro.
But Tunisians have been made to understand that officials in charge of the various commissions of inquiry (corruption, police repression during the recent protests, Constitutional review) were appointed for their independence and honesty, whilst the three newly appointed ministers from the opposition (one has resigned) were brave challengers of Ben Ali at a time when no one dared to confront the former president.
Although the northern African country’s interim government does not have enough time to before presidential elections are held in six months, militants are demanding guarantees that could see an extension of the commission of inquiry’s investigations to both past and present members of the old regime, including Messrs Mebazza and Ghannouchi, for the sake of transparency. “Financial institutions”, according to the militants, “should be closely monitored by independent accountants sanctioned by the commissions of inquiry”.
Calling for a total ban on RCD, which has a vast surveillance network of informants, demonstrators have also demanded that trials of members of Ben Ali’s family and armed militias should be fast-tracked. Among their demands, militants want the country’s judiciary to be reformed; that inquiry commissions work in concert with the people; a completely reorganized free media that does not exclude any political viewpoints and include those banished for not adhering to Ben Ali’s culture of propaganda.