Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tunisia Notes

Tunisia moves more clearly into revolutionary territory, as plans for a unity government dominated by the old regime fall through:
"On Tuesday, the interim prime minister and president resigned from the former ruling Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) party of the deposed president in an attempt to keep the fragile coalition together.

"Mohamed Ghannouchi and Fouad Mebazaa were forced into the move after four ministers refused to sit in a cabinet that contained eight high-ranking memebrs of Ben Ali's government, which many Tunisians see as corrupt...

"The announcement of the new government was also met with anger by some of the Tunisian public."

Juan Cole reports that protests against the new government also took place in rural areas. Kal explains a bit of the split between army and police:
"Numerous reports of armed gangs of Ben Ali loyalists, many of them former police, have circulated on the Internet in recent days which is likely related to this. The rapid decline in the prestige of the police forces as a result of their handling of the protestors and the increase in the army’s could set up for more serious competition. Ben Ali, a long time operator in the security services, had favored the the police to the military and it makes very good sense that his partisans are coming from the parts of the deep state he helped create and sustain. Through the whole crisis it is the Tunisian military and not the police that appear professional and worthy of some kind of public trust. A great many Tunisians view the military as having “saved” them from the police during the crisis, though some news reporting has translated this as some desire for military rule or guidance. One does not get that sense from talking to Tunisians or from viewing the Tunisians on Twitter or in web forums. In any case, a major task for a future Tunisian government will be restoring respect and professionalism to the police, making law and order legal — no small fix. The looting and gangsterism displayed by police and RCD party militias (this is how they have been described by Tunisians and by news reports) represents fear of a loss of privilege and position one can expect to see if a similar overthrew took place in any of the other Arab countries. One wonders what sort of social base these people command (for perspective)."

One important element of the situation, not only now but going forward, is the organization of neighborhood security forces. Such local organization could prove useful to a democratic transition, despite state's temporary loss of its monopoly over the use of force. Some sort of local committees to give the revolution a grassroots base, at any rate, could help ensure the people's voices continue to be heard.



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