The Second Tunisian Revolution Is Underway

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Following the assassination of Tunisian opposition leader Mohammed Brahmi on July 25, are Tunisians preparing for a second revolution to oust Islamist rule?

Tens of thousands of people are roaming the streets of Tunisia from north to south. More than 60 MPs have announced their withdrawal from the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) and the police are repressing peaceful protesters. As for the leaders in power, they are applying the motto, “Here I am, here I remain.” Evidently, the components of a second revolution are present.

Here comes failure in an obvious manner, despite the denials of various troika leaders, and despite the admissions of some of their leaders, like former prime minister and current Secretary-General of Ennahda Hamadi Jebali and Ennahda Vice President Abdelfattah Mourou.

After the assassination of Chokri Belaid, Jebali had actually admitted to this failure before throwing in the towel following his failure to impose on his political family the idea of ​​a government of technocrats to settle the current affairs until elections.

Ali Laarayedh and Noureddine Bhiri were named in his place, but they could not appease the spirits for more than three months. It is true that the national and international economic situation did not help much.

Yet the increased tension has been aggravated not only because of the relative incompetence of the government, but also because of the NCA, which seems to want to stand its ground forever by constantly creating problems that delay elections.

Often, members of the Congress for the Republic (CPR) and Ennahda — which constitute the ruling parties — stand behind these fabricated problems. The most recent problems include the falsification of several texts by Islamist Habib Kheder, general rapporteur of the constitution, not to mention the transitional provisions that prevent appealing to any court for three years to object to constitutional texts. Finally, there is the so-called law of immunization of the revolution, aiming to dismiss certain resolute political opponents from the next elections.

Having already lost its legal legitimacy since Oct. 22, 2012 — for it was originally elected for a one-year term — the NCA has lost its moral legitimacy as well.

On July 25, Republic Day, it also lost its political legitimacy with the assassination of MP Mohammed Brahmi. This is the third political assassination since the Jasmine Revolution, following the assassinations of Lotfi Nagdh and Belaid. Such killings were never witnessed during the rule of former presidents Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Habib Bourguiba, who were described by the current rulers as dictators.

Enough is enough. Tunisians immediately took to the streets to express their anger and disapproval. In the cities of Kef, Gafsa, Sidi Bouzid and Sfax, there were demands for the resignation of the NCA and the incompetent government.

After Brahmi’s funeral, thousands gathered in front of NCA headquarters to demand its dissolution. More than 60 MPs have already announced their withdrawal from the assembly to join the protesters. They swear that they will not leave the premises until finding a final solution to Tunisia's political crisis. With the sit-in already in place and the tents erected, the ruling party has enough reason to be enraged.

However, the rallies were repressed twice more on July 27 by security forces that we no longer hesitate to name as a parallel police for the Islamist Ennahda. Ennahda is suspected of creating militias to defend itself against the angry crowds.  

A counter-protest was organized and we saw known faces, notably at Bardo in front of the NCA. There were thugs here and there, but there were also protesters who had participated in old pro-government sit-ins, including faces from Tunisian TV. Officially, they were there to defend the “legitimacy” of the government and Islam.

Amid the pro-government protest, we could hear slogans and calls of the leaders shouting, “Beware, those MPs who withdrew and the demonstrators who want to bring down the government are enemies of Islam. They want to make your religion vanish from the country. Look at how they are eating and drinking openly, without caring about fasting [during the holy month of Ramadan]. This is enough proof. Be careful, if you do not defend your religion and your country, they will lock us all away in prisons.”

Those sentences were convincing enough to ignite the crowds and push them into confrontations. Late at night, MP Sahbi Atig, who leads the Ennahda bloc within the NCA, came to Bardo and incited the crowds once again. His very presence on the scene was a provocation. In a normal democracy and in a country that respects itself, he would be under arrest, given his calls for murder hardly 15 days ago at a rally in support of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.

Ennahda’s violent reaction was predictable. The Islamist party was brought up on violence, and its leaders have already been convicted of such acts. The determination of the 60 MPs and thousands of democratic protesters challenging the Islamist regime, however, will not be realized: The government will fall and the Islamists will leave power after the institutional coup that they are imposing on people.

In any democratic country, when thousands of protesters take to the streets to express their anger, the government immediately resigns and organizes early elections. We are repeating day and night that the current regime has no legitimacy; its one-year term is over, its mission has failed and three political leaders have been murdered under its term. The protest movement has been active for several weeks. It accelerated on July 25, and the democrats hope it reached its cruising speed on July 27, following the police repression and presence of pro-regime militias.

All the ingredients of a peaceful uprising are present. The second Tunisian revolution is well underway. For the moment, however, it does not seem to resemble the second Egyptian revolution at all.

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