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Tunisia: Tunisia doesn’t have to follow in Egypt’s steps.

August 7, 2013 Leave a comment

This is a good analysis on the Tunisian situation with a comparative framework with the Egyptian situation by a veteran quality journalist who covered the Middle Eastern politics of decades. Abdel Bari Atwan is the former editor of London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi, an independent, pan-Arab daily newspaper, from 1989 to June 2013.

Tunisia can step out of Egypt’s shadow

Though protesters have reason to demand change, Al Nahda, unlike the Brotherhood, has shown a willingness to compromise for the sake of national unity

  • By Abdel Bari Atwan | Special to Gulf News
  • Published: 20:00 August 4, 2013
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: REUTERS
  • Demonstrators shout to demand the ouster of the Islamist-dominated government during a protest outside the Constituent Assembly headquarters in Tunis August 3, 2013.

Egypt has long produced the historical and political blueprint for the rest of the Arab world, but Tunisia led the way in the Arab Spring, and the ouster of President Zine Al Abidine Bin Ali preceded that of Hosni Mubarak by several weeks.

Now, however, the military coup in Cairo and the failure of former president Mohammad Mursi’s Islamist-led government have inspired a new wave of protests in Tunisia and calls for the ruling Troika to step down. Can Tunisia’s fledgling democracy step out of Egypt’s long shadow?

It is a striking paradox that many of those who fought so hard to achieve democracy are willing to use the most undemocratic means to remove an elected government that is not to their liking.

It is in the very nature of democracy and elections that the results will not please all of the people all of the time. Given time, a mature democracy allows for debate and consensus.

Many suspect that exterior, as well as interior forces are at work in the current bid to derail the Arab Spring. When the wave of revolutions seeped from the fringes of the Arab world (Tunisia) to its heart, Egypt, the West became alarmed. Tony Blair, the architect of the destruction of Iraq, begin to talk about “controlled change” in the region, which was exemplified by the military intervention in oil-rich Libya.

When Islamist parties triumphed at the ballot boxes in both Egypt and Tunisia, Blair spoke up again, urging western governments to help the “liberal and democratic elements” in those countries and claiming (outrageously, surely, given the success of Erdogan’s Islamist government in Turkey) that religious parties were unable to offer “real democracy”.

Now those ‘liberal and democratic elements’ have championed the coup in Egypt, and violent protests in Tunis have seen the Tunisian army becoming actively engaged in street politics, shutting off Bardo Square to demonstrators and declaring it a “closed military zone”.

At home, these events will please the remnants of the former dictatorships, slow the pace of real change and further destabilise the region.

Abroad, Israel and its friends will be heartened by the challenge to hostile Islamist policy-makers — particularly in the case of Egypt, a key partner in the peace process. The military court in Cairo made this connection clear when it ordered that Mursi be detained for questioning over his ties with Hamas.

Al Qaida and like-minded groups have been quick to exploiting the security vacuum in both countries. They have all but taken over the Sinai and have established several new bases in Tunisia which is already surrounded by hotbeds of radicalism in Libya, Mali and Algeria. I am told that a Kalashnikov from Libya can nowadays be purchased in Tunis for just $20 (Dh73.4).

Last week, eight Tunisian soldiers were gunned down by men believed to be Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) members. The group may also be behind the assassinations of leading secular opposition figures Shukri Belaid and Mohammad Brahmi, which precipitated the current unrest.

Paradoxically, while its critics blame the Tunisian government for security failures, the ongoing protests and strikes by the country’s biggest union, the Tunisian General Labour Movement (UGTT) distract the army from its real purpose and weaken the state apparatus still further.

I do not wish to give the impression that I consider Mursi’s or the current Tunisian government blameless. They have both made many, glaring errors. My concern is for the stability of the region which, I feel, is best maintained through the ballot box.

Egypt is now in the hands of the army, and may remain so for years to come, but I believe there is still hope for a successful transition to democracy for Tunisia.

Unlike Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the Al Nahda party (which won the most seats in the December 2011 elections) has not tried to monopolise power, appointing independents and politicians from other parties to key ministerial roles. As a result, a new generation of experienced leaders of every hue is in the making.

Perhaps most significantly, the Tunisian army is small (just 27,000 soldiers) and has not, historically, played a political role. Tunisia has been a civil state since 1956 when it gained independence from France and Habib Bourgiba took the helm.

By contrast, Egypt has an army of 1.5 million and the coup which brought Jamal Abdul Nasser to power in 1952 ushered in nearly 60 years of military rule when first Anwar Sadat and then Mubarak succeeded him. Mursi, a civilian, failed to last a year in office.

Tunisia’s protesters have many reasons to demand change. The current government’s mandate expired in December 2012 (elections were for a one-year term only) and it has angered the public by postponing elections and by failing to deliver the new constitution.

These mistakes might have been avoided by a president other then Munsif Marzouqi. On the day of the 2011 elections, I met Al Nahda leader, Rashid Gannouchi, and he told me that he intended to offer Al Baji Qaed Al Sibsi the presidency. As foreign minister under Habib Bourguiba and prime minister responsible for marshalling elections immediately after the revolution, Al Sibsi’s experience would have stood the National Constitution Assembly (NCA) in good stead in such turbulent times. Al Gannouchi bowed to political pressure and agreed to appoint Marzouqi instead.

Although I do not expect Al Nahda (which is a comparatively mild Islamist party) to retain its dominance of the Tunisian political scene, I believe that Al Gannouchi — who I know well from his years in exile in London — may play a key role in resolving the current crisis and returning Tunisia to the path of democracy. A pragmatist, Al Gannouchi is willing to compromise for the sake of national unity and has already responded to the escalating protests with a commitment to complete the constitution by October 23 and to hold elections on December 17, the third anniversary of the uprising.

If the NCA can hold on to power until then, I am cautiously optimistic that Tunisia will emerge from the post-revolutionary period with a properly elected, national unity government and take the lead over Egypt once again towards a brighter future.

 

Abdel Bari Atwan is the former editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi. His latest book is After Bin Laden: Al Qaida, the Next Generation.

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Egypt: MILITARY COUP D’ETAT IN EGYPT–7 Immediate Consequences

July 3, 2013 1 comment

The Egyptian military has just conducted a coup d’état, thus forcing out Mohammed Al-Morsi from power. It’s useful to remind the readers that Morsi was legitimately elected in a free and fair election a year ago.

There are no justifications for this military coup, or for any military coup, or for any intervention of the military in civilian democratic governance. None whatsoever. Those who claim that Morsi mismanaged the economy (which could be a valid claim, though he found when he took over the Egyptian economy was already in the tank) or overstepped his power, or was tone deaf to the demands of the opposition do not advance solid justifications for the intervention of the military and the coup. Moreover, all these grievances are normal political grievances found in any democracy and could have been resolved and dealt with through normal democratic and legal means and mechanisms that all democracies–including the Egyptian one–provide.

Moreover, those who argue that this is not a coup d’état, but an civilian inspired intervention of the military in politics to stop Egypt from descending into anarchy and chaos cannot change the fact that Egypt’s military transferred power illegally from a legitimately elected official and placed it in the hands of an unelected and illegitimate official. This is the definition of a coup d’état. And there is no further debate about that aspect of the event.

Having said that, what are the immediate consequences of this military coup d’état in Egypt & in the Arab/Muslim world?

1-High likelihood of a civil strife and civil war

Civil unrest, and a probable civil war, is very likely and sadly almost unavoidable. The supporters of Morsi will probably protest this coup. They will organize sit-ins in parks, streets, avenues and even  mosques. The military will somehow look away for a couple of months, but sooner or later will intervene forcibly to disperse  the protesters, and that would be the spark which would ignite the first round of violence, which, sadly, wouldn’t the last one. Even if the leaders of the MB have announced that they are against and do not support violence and have denounced it repeatedly, violence is more than likely to occur. In this case, who do we blame? The military or the radical wings of the Islamist movement? It’s clear to me that the blame should go first and foremost to those who organized this coup and stole the legitimate and democratic victory of the MB. After that, the blame game starts again, and we will soon not know who did what, why, and when. Sadly, this has always been the hallmark of the cycle of violence in almost all civil wars and civil strife. But as of now, the aggrieved are the member of the MB, and the aggressors are the military. This much is clear.

2-Victory of the radical wing of the Muslim Brotherhood and defeat of the moderate one

For decades, the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood has been engaged in a serious and tough internal debate to convince its rank and file that democracy is a valid and a legitimate means to arrive to power and do politics. During those years, there were divisions within the movement, the radicals were forced out, outnumbered and muted, and serious fights, fatwas and religious edits were issued to justify democracy, and undermine all alternative means that were so popular in the movement back in the 1960s and 70s. Those who won that debate are the biggest losers today since this coup will provide cover, support, and justification for the rhetoric of the radicals. So, we will probably see the revival of the radical wing of the Muslim Brotherhood which has never believed that Arab/Muslim autocrats would allow an Islamist Party to win elections and exercise power.

3-U.S. will be fairly or unfairly blamed for the coup d’état

The U.S and Israel will be directly or indirectly, fairly or unfairly, blamed for this coup. Even if the U.S did not have any involvement in the coup, the fact that it did not put sufficient pressures on the Egyptian military (with whom it has great relations) will be held against it. Already all over social media networks and Internet forums pictures of a collage of Mossadegh, Salvador Allende and Morsi are floating intimating that this was a coup designed in the West (you add to that Israel) and carried out by “their stooges”, the Egyptian military.

4-Good days ahead for Al-Qaeda

Al-Qaeda has just gotten a fresh batch of new recruits, slogans, narrative, and material. All that material will point an accusatory finger toward the U.S and accuse the U.S (and by extension Israel) for its hypocrisy–i.e., the U.S loves democracy only when it doesn’t involve Islamist Parties–and for being anti-Islam. The “I told you so” will be the new recruiting slogan for Al-Qaeda. Members of Al-Qaeda as well as its ideology never believed and/or supported democracy and have always undermined moderate and not so moderate Islamist political parties. Probably, the biggest blow to the Al-Qaeda as an ideology was the Arab Spring and the electoral victories of moderate Islamist parties in Tunisia and Egypt. However, Al-Qaeda’s biggest victory so far was handed to it by the Egyptian military today. I have no doubt that Al-Zawahiri is celebrating and dancing in his cave right now.

5-Delegitimization of future Islamist Parties in Egypt post Morsi’s MB

All Islamist Parties that choose to take part in future elections in Egypt will have no credibility, just like all Islamist Parties in Algeria now have lost all popular credibility and legitimacy. The loss of credibility will result from 2 sources: 1) the alleged mismanagement of the economy during Morsi’s first year in office (though it is extremely unfair to blame him for the economic situation since he inherited a collapsing economy); and 2) if the MB engages in violence, and clearly calls for a violent uprising against the military or loses control over its base. This will be held against the MB and will harm its political and social brand, and might even lead to its ban.

6-Delegitimization of democracy as a valid means of governance in Egypt

This is a deadly blow to democracy in Egypt. I am afraid that it might even be a complete delegitimization of the democratic process. Regardless of all the spin that we are listening to right now and is coming from Egypt notwithstanding, democracy has died tonight in Egypt. The consequences of that is the rise of an electoral authoritarian system with a democratic veneer, but with deep layers of authoritarian rules.  The freedom of the press, an independent judiciary, freedom of association and speech are, as of now, something of the past.

7-Chilling effect on new democracies in the Arab World and Sub-Saharan Africa

This coup will have a chilling effect on all new and fledgling democratization processes in Tunisia and Libya (there is also another effect that i will develop in future posts). The military in those countries (and in Sub-Saharan democracies as well) will feel emboldened by the Egyptian example. They will feel that they can intervene at any time in the political process to shape politics in the manner they see fit. Effectively, the military has become in the Arab World a very powerful veto player in civilian democratic governance. This is the death of democracy as we know it, and the rise of electoral authoritarianism, which will last a generation or two.

Video of president Morsi’s last speech moment before he was placed under house arrest

Tunisie: Rached Ghannouchi met en garde contre les dangers de l’intégrisme violent

September 22, 2012 5 comments

Courtesy of Juan Cole.

Tunisian Muslim Leader Warns of Dangers of Violent Fundamentalism

Posted on 09/21/2012 by Juan

As the Tunisian Ministry of the Interior announced that no demonstrations would be permitted on Friday, the Muslim leader Rached Ghanoushi warned of the dangers of violent fundamentalism. The Tunisian government invoked emergency powers on learning of plans for violent disruptions on Friday, in response to anti-Islam caricatures published in the French magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Ghanoushi, the leader of the ruling al-Nahda Party and a long-time proponent of political Islam in Tunisia, has come out strongly against the small but violent “Salafi Jihadi” movement in an interview with Agence France Presse. He said that these violent extremists posed a threat both to his own al-Nahda Party and also to general liberties in the country, and said that such disruptive groups need to be dealt with decisively.

The Salafis, or hard line ultra-fundamentalists, in Tunisia, unlike those in Egypt, did not gain seats in parliament, and they are mainly known for a series of small but provocative public acts of violence and disruption, including throwing stones outside movie theaters, rioting outside art exhibits, harassing unveiled women, attacking tourist hotels for selling alcohol, and, last Saturday, attacking the American school and setting a fire on the grounds of the US Embassy in Tunis. The hard core of activists sometimes gets support in a few working class districts of the capital and some small rural towns, but it is far out of the mainstream of the country.

Many Tunisians are secularists, and there is a strong tradition of moderate Sunni Muslim reformism. Ghanouchi himself told me in an interview in May that his al-Nahda had unreservedly embraced democracy and the principle of popular sovereignty.

Other Tunisians when I was there viewed al-Nahda with suspicion and felt as though it was using the Salafis or at least not interfering with them, as a way of shifting the country toward the religious Right. Educated women often expressed fear of the Salafis taking away their rights.

The al-Nahda government is being criticized for not having arrested Salafi extremist Seif Allah Ibn Hussein, known as Abu Iyadh.

Ghanoushi has in the past condemned actions of the Salafis but at the same time complained of ‘provocations’ by secularists. In this interview, he appears to have made no excuses for them and to have condemned them roundly (though the Arabic version of the AFP interview condemns ‘Salafi Jihadis,’ not all Salafis).

I take it he has begun to worry, as I suggested last weekend, that al-Nahda itself may become associated in the public mind with the extremism and violence of the Salafis, and so could suffer in the parliamentary elections now scheduled for late spring, 2013. The proponents of political Islam in both Tunisia and Egypt face the problem that if they crack down on the extremist Salafis, they look like lackeys of imperialism defending attacks on the Prophet Muhammad. They could thus injure their standing with their own base. On the other hand, if they don’t dissociate themselves from and prove the can curb the disruptions of the Salafis, they could lose the general public in a future election.

Secular-minded Tunisians will be watching al-Nahda carefully to see if it follows through on its commitment to public order and to curbing the Salafi Jihadis.

The US State Department took revenge on the al-Nahda government for its failure to prevent Saturday’s attack on the American embassy by issuing a travel warning for Tunisia, discouraging Americans from going there. This step was a blow to Tunisian tourism and prospects of attracting foreign investment. Ghanoushi told me that the al-Nahda government had good relations with the US and was pleased with the support in Washington for Tunisian democracy. He couldn’t say so publicly, but some of his forthrightness in his AFP interview may have been an attempt to reassure Western powers about the new Tunisia.

On Attend Toujours!!!

September 14, 2012 Leave a comment

Suite à la publication de cette image (voir ci-dessous) dans le journal satirique, “The Onion,” dans laquelle les personnages les plus vénérés de plusieurs confessions religieuses étaient représenté se livrant à un acte sexuel lascive et de dépravation considérable, personne n’a été assassiné, battu, brulé, ou a vu sa vie menacé.

 
On attend toujours les fans de Moïse, Jésus, de la déesse Ganesha, et de Bouddha. Mais on risque d’attendre longtemps et pour rien.

 

 

Concernant le film anti-Islam, manifestations en Libye/Egypte & la réaction de Mitt Romney.

September 14, 2012 3 comments

Juan Cole posted on his blog an excellent analysis of the movie that caused such an uproar in Libya, Egypt, and Muslim countries. He investigated in details (and with links)  the origin of the movie, who shot it, who funded it, and for what purpose. As we already know, the U.S. government is in no way or shape linked to the production and/or promotion of this movie. Moreover, the U.S. government, federal and/or state, cannot shut down or ban this movie because it has no constitutional basis for doing so. Yes ladies and gentlemen, the first amendment protects your right to be a jackass.
So without further do, i let you read Juan Cole’s article.

Romney Jumps the Shark: Libya, Egypt and the Butterfly Effect

The late science fiction writer Ray Bradbury authored a short story about time travelers. They were careful, when they went back to the Jurassic, not to change anything, but one of them stepped on a butterfly. When they got back to the present, the world was slightly different.

When scientists studying complexity put forward the idea that small initial events could have large effects in non-linear, dynamic systems like the weather, they chose the term ‘butterfly effect.” One of the images students of weather instanced was that a butterfly flapping its wings might set off minor turbulence that ultimately turned into a hurricane. (In the older model of Newtonian physics, small events have small effects and large events have large effects, so you wouldn’t expect a minor action to produce big changes).

So the Associated Press did a careful investigation of the ‘Sam Bacile’ who supposedly directed the hate film, ‘The Innocence of Muslims.’ And AP found that probably he does not exist, but is a persona used by a convicted Coptic Egyptian fraudster, Nakoula Bassely Nakoula.

But the story gets more complex. Nakoula had Coptic and evangelical associates in the shooting of the film, including Steve Klein, a former Marine and current extremist Christian who has helped train militiamen in California churches and has led “protests outside abortion clinics, Mormon temples and mosques.” My guess is that most of the Egyptian Copts involved are converts to American-style fundamentalism.

The Egyptian Coptic church has roundly condemned the hateful film they made smearing the Prophet Muhammad.

Anyway, the bigotry of the edited film, directed at Muslims, is part of a movement of religious prejudice that also targets . . . Mormons.

Mitt Romney may want to rethink his ‘visceral’ reaction to the US embassy in Cairo’s tweet condemning the group’s hate speech.

Then it turns out that the film was shot in such a way that there was originally no mention of the Prophet Muhammad in the script, and the cast had no idea what they were getting themselves into, and then the name of Muhammad was clumsily dubbed into the final edit.

So, the film was from the beginning a fraud. It was directed by a fraud. It was promoted by a militia trainer. And Nakoula marketed it fraudulently as the work of a fictitious Israeli-American Jewish real estate agent, ‘Sam Bacile,’ and falsely said it had been funded by “a hundred Jewish donors.”

The group behind the film, in other words, managed to evoke all the classic themes of anti-Semitism as a way of disguising the Coptic and evangelical network out of which the ‘film’ came. When they weren’t busy picketing Mormons and defaming Muslims they were trying to get Jews killed for their own smears of Islam!

Of course, given the strident hatred of Muslims promoted by a handful of Jewish American extremists such as Pamela Geller, David Horowitz, Daniel Pipes and others, in which they gleefully join with white supremacists and Christian fundamentalists, it was only a matter of time before their partners in hate turned on them and used them.

The bad, dubbed ‘film’ only had one theater showing in some dowdy place in LA. Then in July the group had the trailer for it dubbed into Arabic with subtitles as well, and put it on Youtube, where it was found by strident Egyptian Muslim fundamentalist Sheikh Khaled Abdallah, who had it shown on al-Nas television and caused the sensation that led to Tuesday’s demonstrations in Cairo and Benghazi. As I argued yesterday, the vigilante extremists or ‘jihadis’ have been left on the garbage pile of history by the democratic elections in Egypt and Libya, and are whipping up the issue of this film in a desperate attempt to remain relevant.

Aware of the building sensation about the film, an employee of the US embassy in Cairo condemned it as hate speech before the rally began outside its premises.

In other words, this is a non-film and a non-story, a fraud, promoted by the worst people in each culture.

In Cairo, the rally allegedly got out of hand because the Ultras or soccer ruffians joined in, and they were probably the ones who tore down the American flag and ran up a black Muslim-fundamentalist one. Ultras are not fundamentalists but they are mischievous and resent authority, so a superpower that backs the army and police they hate might be a target of their wrath. There may have also been a handful of al-Qaeda supporters there, not surprising on the anniversary of September 11. The crowd at the American embassy was tiny by Egyptian protest standards.

In Benghazi, Hadeel Al Shalchi got the story. She talked to Libyan special forces members who explained that there were three stages to the events there. First, there was a demonstration. Then when the police and consulate guards tried to curb it, the demonstrators got angry and some of them went for guns and a rocket propelled grenade, so that the consulate was set on fire and looted. It was at that second stage that US ambassador Chris Stevens and another diplomat were killed (Stevens inhaled too much smoke in the fire and the other man was shot). Stevens’ death is a great tragedy and irony, since he was liaison to the transitional national council during the Libyan revolution and many Libyans lionize him. Why in the world he was in an insecure minor consulate in a provincial city on September 11 is a mystery to me.

Then 37 embassy personnel escaped to a rural safe house. The Libyan special forces commander charged with evacuating them to Tripoli at first was stymied by not having enough vehicles for so many people. Then the safe house came under fairly precise mortar fire from members of an al-Qaeda affiliate operating in Benghazi, which must have been surveilling consular personnel. Finally, the Libyan government forces got the Americans to the airport and they flew back to the capital of Tripoli.

It should be remembered that Libyan forces fought and risked their lives to protect Americans. In opinion polling in Eastern Libya, the United States has a 60% favorability rating, while the Salafis or hard line Muslims stand at only 28% favorable.

It was while all that was going on in Cairo and Benghazi that Mitt Romney took it into his head to condemn Barack Obama for the tweet issued by the Cairo embassy before the demonstration. He alleged that Obama had *reacted* to the embassy attacks by showing some sympathy for the attackers. This allegation is untrue and absurd, but Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan went on repeating it all day Wednesday.

Romney was caught on camera walking away from that shameful performance with a shark-like grin on his face. Since he was talking about matters of life and death, the expression was inappropriate. But a darker theory is that he was grinning about having stuck it to Obama.

Romney’s politicization of September 11 and of the horrible events in Benghazi was poorly received among opinion leaders, including prominent Republicans, and some observers suggest that this miscalculation may have been a decisive nail in the coffin of his sputtering campaign.

Meanwhile, the Libyan government apologized for and vehemently condemned the attack on the consulate and the killing of its personnel. And, on Wednesday Libyans staged pro-American demonstrations in several cities.

In Egypt, in contrast, small demonstrations were held again in front of the US embassy, until police pushed the activists back. When, on Thursday morning, protesters set two cars afire with Molotov cocktails, police arrested 12 of them. The police have the embassy surrounded and have closed the roads leading to it in Garden City.

Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, fell short of strongly condemning the Cairo and Benghazi attacks. Late on Wednesday the Muslim Brotherhood finally retweeted comments of one of its other leaders, Khairat al-Shater, in condemnation of the attacks. Nevertheless, the Brotherhood is sponsoring rallies protesting the film on Friday, a ‘day of rage.’ Morsi is no doubt worried that religious and political currents to his right will outflank him on the issue of the blasphemous film and its American provenance. But Morsi has a Ph.D. from the US and surely knows that the US government cannot suppress films, and it is shameful that he did not condemn forthrightly the killing of Ambassador Stevens and the others.

In Tunisia, Salafis rallied on Wednesday in front of the US embassy, but were fairly quickly dispersed by police deploying tear gas. Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki denounced the killing of Stevens and the others as an “act of terrorism.”

So the Butterfly Effect set off by a low-budget bad propaganda film gotten up by two-bit frauds and Christian supremacists, and then promoted by two-bit Egyptian and Libyan fundamentalists, has provoked some squalls and cost the lives of four good men.

The storm provoked by this butterfly has revealed character on an international scale. The steely determination of an Obama to achieve justice, the embarrassing grandstanding of a Romney, the destructive hatred of a handful of extremists in Cairo and Benghazi, and the decency and warmth toward the US of the Libyan crowds, all were thrown into stark relief by the beating of the butterfly’s wings.

In the end, the violence and extremism of the hardliners on both sides is a phantasm of the past, not a harbinger of the future. The wave of democratic politics sweeping the region has left the haters behind, reducing them to desperate and senseless acts of violence that will gain them no good will, no popularity, no political credibility.

A little-noted major event of Wednesday was the democratic selection of a new prime minister in Libya for the first time in the country’s history. Mustafa Abushagur defeated the Muslim Brotherhood candidate handily. Abushagur for a long time taught college in the US, at the University of Alabama Huntsville. Libyans again showed themselves nationalist and non-fundamentalist. This remarkable achievement, and what it portends for the shape of Libyan politics, will be drowned out by the atrocity in Benghazi, but it is the development that is likely to be marked by future historians as a turning point in Libya and in the Middle East.

Tunisie: Discours d’investiture de Dr. Merzouki

December 13, 2011 Leave a comment

President Moncef Marzouki addresses the Tunisian Parliament in his first inaugural speech as a President of Tunisia

Earlier today, Dr. Merzouki delivered his first speech as the president of Tunisia. An Inaugural speech is an important indicator of how the executive branch (or its head in this instance) would behave itself in the future. It is also a way to gauge the priorities of head of the executive. In this first speech, this is exactly what President Merzouki did. In a very sober, yet very powerful, speech, he laid down what he saw as the most important challenges facing Tunisia. He reaffirmed his solemn belief in the core values of the Tunisian Revolution–democracy, rule of law, justice for all, economic justice, and transparency–and briefly sketched the road ahead.

However, what stood out for me as the most important section of the speech is when President Merzouki enumerated in a very direct way the enormous challenges he and his government are asked to deal with, and enumerated the values that he and his government are asked to defend.  In that section, President Merzouki says,

We are asked, at the same time, to carry out the objectives of the revolution and to foster stability. We are asked to rapidly engage in the most urgent reforms without delaying the more structural one. We are asked to create jobs without sinking in debt. We are asked to encourage investment without encouraging speculation and exploitation. We are asked to protect the rights of the employees without forgetting about the rights employers. We are asked to develop and invest in the depressed regions of our country without forgetting about the other regions. We are asked to find the right balance between holding former and current leaders accountable without forgetting to seek reconciliation. We are asked to develop our Arab and Muslim identity and open up ourselves to the rest of the world without forgetting to deepen our relations with the East, the West and the South. We are asked to protect and defend the veiled women, and to to protect the right to protest and protesters without forgetting to protect the institutions targeted by the protesters. We are asked to preserve law and order without threatening liberty. We are asked to comfort and support the opposition and tell them that there is no room for vengeance in today’s Tunisia. [translated by the blogger]

Well, here is the entirety of the speech. It is in Arabic. I will try to find a translation or do the translation myself if I have time.

Categories: Arab revolution, Tunisia

Dr. Merzouki, President of Tunisia. Tahya Tounis

December 12, 2011 1 comment

Here is Dr. Merzouki’s investiture speech before Tunisia’s newly elected parliament.

Categories: Tunisia