Jebali's Resignation Leaves Uncertainties, Concerns for Tunisia

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Following the assassination of Tunisian opposition leader Chokri Belaid, Tunisia’s political arena has been turbulent, culminating in the resignation of Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, reports Noureddine Hlaoui.

Following the Feb. 6 assassination of opposition activist Chokri Belaid, and after the announcement made by Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali concerning his initiative to form a government of independent technocrats who would pledge not to run in the upcoming elections and oversee a clear and accelerated consensus agenda, we thought we had reached a positive consensus.

However, 15 days later, we have come to find ourselves at the same point we were following the Oct. 23, 2011 election — with only a Constituent National Assembly. We do not have an official government, but rather a cabinet that manages everyday affairs. We neither have a constitution, an electoral law nor independent bodies for the elections, the media and the judiciary.

Amid the volatile and emotional atmosphere on the day Belaid was assassinated, the statement released by Jebali created a psychological countershock, leading many Tunisians to believe that the initiative would actually work. The prime minister’s firm tone suggested that he was determined to make his plan a reality and present everyone with a fait accompli.

But his detractors, especially from his own side of the Troika — namely, Ennahda and the Congress for the Republic (CPR) — soon made the issue more complicated by procrastinating and demanding time to think matters through without categorically rejecting the idea. Yet as days passed, many statements were made by the Islamist party, which led to not knowing who to believe. Some suggested formal rejection while others spoke of discussions and a possible compromise. Meanwhile, most of the opposition parties voiced support for Jebali’s initiative. Roles were reversed.

Between these two sides, the prime minister did not relinquish his reputation and image as a hesitant man who lacks firmness. However, there were many consultants and experienced lawyers who urged him to proceed with the reshuffle because he could legally do so and because by doing so he could get his critics to face up to their historical responsibilities.

By forming the government he had promised on the evening of Feb. 6, he would be able to present Ennahda with a dilemma. They could either accept the fait accompli — that Jebali is the savior of the country — or file a motion of non-confidence to topple the government. In the latter case, the party would be, in the eyes of both national and international public opinion, the party that — through its hegemonic disposition — seeks to incite discord and lead Tunisia into chaos.

However, Jebali did not stick it out until the end. The fact that he would block this plan and announce his resignation became predictable a few days ago.

For practical purposes, it is useful to make some projections about the future. Now, the country is officially without a government, and two options are possible, according to observers. The first would lead Jebali to proceed with the formation of a new government under the conditions he proposed, i.e., a technocrat majority and a reduced number of politicians with a clear agenda for the rest of the transitional stage.

But this scenario is unlikely to materialize. It would have been possible, had it not been for the commotion that led to the resignation of the government of the Troika. However, if other opposition parties — including possibly al-Joumhouri and the Democratic Alliance — agree to join the coalition, this option could see the light of day. This would lead Ennahda to make concessions on sovereign portfolios.

But then again, this possibility is difficult to achieve. It would have been reasonable had it not been for the intransigence of the Islamist party concerning control of the Ministry of the Interior, which constitutes a demand that is needed more than ever.

The second choice, which seems to align with the logic of Ennahda, involves the appointment of another candidate — probably a "hawk" — in order to form a government of hardliners bringing together the eminent members of the CPR, the Wafa movement (led by Abderraouf Ayadi) and other opportunists.

In this case, no party from the opposition, nor Ettakatol, would join the team. But here, we prefer not to predict what might take place in Tunisia. It would open the door to all forms of extremism and total uncertainty, because the free and democratic voices will not be muted. Moreover, whether Ennahda likes it or not, the international community is closely following the situation in our country and will have its say and could influence the course of events. This is especially true since it seems that more than 80% of our economy depends on our relationships and social, political and economic ties with this community.

This means that opportunities are presenting themselves rather inauspiciously. Tunisia is at a crossroads, and by rejecting the Jebali initiative, Ennahda and the CPR have already put the country on a slippery slope that we must figure out how to get off of as quickly as possible.

Apart from these assumptions and prospects, it is worth mentioning that some conspiracy theorists are whispering that all the commotion that started on Feb. 6 has been aimed at, among other things, assuaging the security atmosphere, which was on the verge of melting down following the assassination of Belaid. Yet frankly, we prefer not to think about it, because it would be an overly serious approach, if not diabolical and Machiavellian.

The imbroglio is so entangled that even the best analysts cannot claim to be able to unravel all of the facts. But one point must be made: ever since elections were held on Oct. 23, 2011, we have not taken a single step forward. Worse still, we have miraculously managed to take leaps backwards. This is not to mention the security situation, which is still very precarious, as attested by the chief of staff of the National Army himself. Furthermore, the economic situation is critical, as evidenced by Tunisia’s recently downgraded S&P rating.

However, only Houcine Jaziri, Rafik Abdessalem, Abdellatif Mekki, Lotfi Zitoun, Ali Laarayedh, Walid Bennani and others similar to Minister of Higher Education Moncef Ben Salem see that all is going well in the best of worlds. Moreover, according to the "magic" figures of the National Statistics Institute since its director was replaced by those in power, Tunisia has made leaps and bounds in all areas.

Numerous Tunisians, however, are wary and know that the current rulers are masters in the art of gossip, gratuitous statements and untruths that they improvise on stage. The last example is that of Slim Ben Hemidane, who "lied" about Gen. Rachid Ammar, which, in any self-respecting democracy, would have resulted in his immediate dismissal.

In other words, we might have the same figures in power for an indeterminate period of time, the same figures to lead the country and Tunisians to free, democratic and fair elections and have a reliable and viable constitution for generations to come.  

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Found in: tunisian revolution, tunisian politics, jebali, hamadi jebali
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