Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Debate: Tunisia’s next government will likely succeed | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Tunisian protesters shoot slogans during an anti government demonstration on November 15, 2013 in Tunis. (AFP/Fethi Belaid)

While the formation of Tunisia’s next government remains the subject of debate among participants in the national dialogue, there can be no doubt that this government will succeed in overcoming the dangers, difficulties and obstacles that lie ahead.

The mechanisms of the national dialogue were set in motion weeks ago. It is a dialogue centered on the participation of various political bodies, in particular the Tunisian political parties that make up the so-called governing troika, namely Ennahda, Ettakatol (the Democratic Forum for Labor and Liberties), and the Congress for the Republic Party.

However, this process came to a standstill following the failure to select a prime minister-designate. Tunisia is now witnessing a period of delay, which the ruling parties are counting on in order to extend their stay in power. They are seeking to take advantage of this to arrange the political climate in their own interests, drafting a new constitution that will ensure the preservation of the same ruling troika. This, at least, is an opinion shared by the majority of observers.

The current state of affairs in Tunisia is one of popular anger, and of disappointment among the youth in a revolution that none of the current ruling parties played any part in. It is this state of affairs that makes reaching an agreement on the formation of a technocratic government so vital to securing Tunisia’s exit from the current political impasse. The importance of this cannot be overstated, particularly given the build-up of crises, from political assassinations to social and economic crisis resulting from high levels of inflation and unemployment. This is not to mention Tunisia’s confused judicial and political scene, which remains unstable. This desired stability can only come about once a new constitution has been drafted, which is a process that has already required nationwide elections and two years.

This new government will arise out of consensus rather than the balance of power, it will be non-partisan, and it will seek to maintain an equal distance between all political parties and trends on the Tunisian scene.

But how will this government deal with the situation on the ground three years after the January 14 revolution? The citizens of Tunisia are facing a number of serious issues, none more so than the national crisis that is currently gripping the country. The people of Tunisia did not envision this when they took to the streets in peaceful demonstrations against dictatorship and regional and social oppression. The Tunisians did not foresee that their country would enter into this period of darkness and crisis.

There is a sense of reassurance and optimism surrounding the putative leader of the future government, a government which will focus not on elections but rather on a radical revision of everything that the Hamad Jebali and Ali Laareyedh governments embarked on, particularly in terms of governmental appointments.

Equally, the future government will work to improve its negotiations with international lending organizations. Equally, it will be a government formed with the aim of improving Tunisia’s diplomatic relations with other Arab countries, particularly those who could play a role in helping Tunisia overcome its financial crisis.

In that case, it is clear to see how the political and security criticisms that have been levelled by the opposition at the Laareyedh government bear no relation to the demands of the Tunisian people that have built up over the two years following the revolution.

My own assessment is that this future government will certainly succeed, and will overcome 80 percent of the challenges that have arisen on the political, legal, social and economic levels. Everybody will have no choice but to move forward, particularly if we find the appropriate candidate to lead the government in the next phase. This figure must be charismatic and decisive in terms of administrating public affairs and managing the Cabinet.

The government that will succeed the Laareyedh government is thus sure to succeed, particularly as it enjoys an unprecedented advantage over other governments. It will be formed after a long and intense period of debate regarding its aims, demands and vision. Moreover, it comes after a conciliatory solution, in which there is no place for partisan interests. Another advantage of this government is that none of its members will put themselves forward as candidates in any future elections, whether we are talking about presidential, legislative or even municipal elections.

We expect all these factors to play a major part in the success of the future government of Tunisia.

Yet there is another crucial issue which will also be definitive in assuring the future government’s success. It is linked to the principles of the January 14 revolution, namely the similarity of the escalating crises that we are witnessing today and those which pushed the bulk of the Tunisian people first to anger, then to uprising, then to revolution.

The essence of any revolution has two elements:

The first concerns all the issues and concerns the people have stored in their collective memory, from social ills to the silencing of free speech to interfering with the independence of the judicial process. All these are considered catalysts along the road to revolution, right up until the people reach the moment of revolution, which can be recorded precisely in terms of year, month, week, day and even hour.

So we in Tunisia, for example, consider January 14, 2011, to have been the day of the revolution, even though the revolutionary process really began in the autumn of 2008 in the mining region of southwest Tunisia. But it was the socio-political spark—the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi on December 17, 2011—that finally led to the Tunisian revolution.

The essence of any revolution is that it should be the result of a movement designed to implement particular objectives. Thus revolutionary leaders should distance themselves from the smaller, piecemeal demands in order to carry out the revolution’s greater aims. It is also assumed that they, the leaders, will adopt the qualities of the martyrs who sacrificed their blood for the triumph of the revolution.

A National Constituent Assembly was elected in Tunisia, but as soon as a new government was formed and signed off on this assembly, it began to act more like a parliament, rather than a constitution-drafting body. This explains the widespread frustration in Tunisia, which brought about a wave of protests, particularly given the rigid mentality of those in power, who failed to take into account the objectives of the revolution.

So the future government will adjust its compass according to the objectives of the revolution, however painstaking and costly this may prove. I anticipate that this will enable the government to take the country out of the current political and legal crises.

In any event, the struggle over the last two years of troika rule can be characterized as a period of training and preparation in political discourse between the various political and intellectual parties, none of whom have been excluded. In this way, the various political actors have been able to learn the rules of the game, in terms of political, economic and partisan agendas, as well as relations between political groups and the people.

The counterpoint to this article can be read here.