Behind the scenes and forecasts by Francesco Guidi

Tunisian Prime Minister Mohammed Gannouchi resigns

March  01, 2011 - : 

One month after the fall of the regime led by Ben Ali (who fled his country on January 14th), on February 27th Prime Minister Mohammed Gannouchi resigned following a day of clashes in Tunis in which five people were killed. This confirms that the country is far from returning to calm and from establishing a new political balance after the fall of Ben Ali's regime. Prime Minister Mohammed Gannouchi resigned on Sunday, February 27th and interim President Fouad Mebazaa replaced him with Bej Caied Essebsi. Mohammed Gannouchi's position had become impossible due to continuous protests against him accusing him of close links with former President Ben Ali and of plotting to ensure the failure of the Jasmine Revolution. The head of the Government Commission for Political Reform, Yadh Ben Achur, warned that there is a risk that "the country will fall into anarchy in the transition towards a real multi-party democracy, if one does not act with great caution and responsibility." The Commission has been assigned the task of dismantling the repressive laws of former President Ben Ali's authoritarian government.
Two other ministers resign while anti-government protests continue
Replacing the prime minister has not calmed the situation and anti-government protests continued on Monday, February 28th. Protesters are now criticizing the fact that the new prime minister was chosen without consulting the other political parties. Many young people do not feel represented by the new prime minister, Bej Caied Essebsi, and describe him as a distant political personality. In an increasingly tense atmosphere, on Monday, February 28th two more ministers resigned, the Minister of Industry and Technology Mohamed Afif Chelbi, and the Minister of Programming and International Cooperation Mohammed Nouri Jouini. Secretary of State for IT and Communications, Sami Zaoui, also resigned.
Tension is rising in the country
The situation in the country has deteriorated significantly in recent days, especially after acts of vandalism were committed by the former Presidential Guard and by members of the now dissolved majority party led be Ben Ali, the Rassemblement Constitutionnel Democratique. There is also tension at the border with Libya with many Tunisian refugees returning home due to the serious situation in the neighboring country. There is also concern over the Tunisian economy due to the significant fall in tourism, one of the main sources of revenue in the country. In addition to the five people who died in Tunis on February 26th, there have been protests and clashes all over the country.

Catherine Ashton's optimistic comment
Catherine Ashton, the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs, praised Mohammed Gannouchi, who avoided further violence by deciding to resign. Ashton seized the opportunity to welcome the new Prime Minister, Bej Caied Essebsi, encouraging him to organize presidential and parliamentary elections before the end of July. She also said that the European Union is ready to help Tunisia hold these elections.
The demands of the protesters
There is currently an anti-government sit-in Tunis' Kasbah, while protesters demand the immediate summoning of a Constituent Assembly and the recognition of a Council for the Safeguarding of the Revolution. On February 28th the leader of the Ennahda extremist Islamist movement, Rached Gannouchi, said that a new transition government is needed that also includes the Council for the Safeguarding of the Revolution. "That," he said, "is the only way that we can be sure of thwarting any attempt to sabotage the Jasmine Revolution." Protests have become particularly violent in recent days, to the extent that there have been rumours concerning the reintroduction of a curfew. 

A profile of the new prime minister, Bej Caied Essebsi
Bej Caied Essebsi is 85-years-old; he is a lawyer and is considered an important liberal politician who cooperated at length with Habib Bourghiba, the leader who led Tunisia to independence in 1957 and dominated the political scenario that followed as the country's president for thirty years, until the coup d'etat organized by Ben Ali on November 7th, 1987. Interim President Fouad Mebazaa described the new prime minister as "a person with an impeccable political and private life, known for his profound patriotism, his loyalty and his self-sacrifice in serving his country."  Essebsi had a number of appointments in the Burghiba government and was on various occasions Interior Minister, Foreign Minister and Defence Minister. When Ben Ali came to power, Essebsi was initially Speaker of the House, but this only lasted a year and he then moved over to the opposition. He returns to the political stage at a difficult time for Tunisia, since political balance must be established and elections held before the end of July.
Al Qaeda's second-in-command appeals to the Tunisian and Egyptian people asking them to overturn their respective transition governments
On Saturday, February 26th, using a website, Al Qaeda's second-in-command, the Egyptian Ayman al Zawahiri, posted a message inciting the Tunisian and Egyptian people to overturn their respective transition governments. He said that the United States is already working to control the newly formed revolutionary movements in Tunisia and in Egypt.

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