Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tunisian Openings

Tunisia's government may have been based largely in the old ruling party, but it is acting quickly to open the political system:
"Tunisia's transitional cabinet has decided to recognise all banned political parties and agreed on a general amnesty for all political prisoners.

"The interim government, appointed earlier this week, held its first session on Thursday amid an outcry over its inclusion of members of the regime of the ousted president...

"Tayyib Al Bakouchi, the government spokesman, said the multiparty government pledged to make security its top priority, to prepare for new presidential elections and speed up political reforms.

"The ministers also vowed to restore goods and real estate appropriated by the ruling party under Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the former president who fled into exile in Saudi Arabia last Friday after weeks of anti-government protests.

"The cabinet declared three days of national mourning starting on Friday following the country's deadly unrest. The government has said 78 people have been killed since the uprising started in December but the United Nations has put the toll at about 100."

Yesterday I spoke with a colleague who was in Tunisia around ten years ago when her husband was a Fulbright scholar there. She commented that at that time, there was democratic participation in Tunisia in the form of the parents' association of her local daycare and school. Such a grassroots democratic spirit has also been seen in the neighborhood security organizations which sprung up following Ben Ali's flight, and may be related to the critical stance taken by the country's military. As Steve Cook notes, the way they stepped in against Ben Ali heightens the expectations that they may again if an open political system does not emerge. This makes me optimistic for the future.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)



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