Monthly Archives: April 2014

by M. Adnen Chaouachi

The process of building a democracy in Tunisia was launched by demonstrations in the streets of towns and cities throughout the country, which led to the rapid departure of Ben Ali. Mohamed Bouazizi set himself alight in Sidi Bouzid on December 17th, 2010, and Ben Ali fled the country with his wife on January 14th, 2011. The citizens of Tunisia began to enjoy freedom of speech, expression and the media, and organized free and fair elections which were held on October 23rd. These events summarize the different factors that shook Tunisia over the past 10 months.

Yet, there’s a missing element on the list. It is the announcement of the results of the elections, which has been given much attention by local and foreign observers who are trying to understand how the Constituent Assembly will look like. In simple terms, the announcement is just an event that takes place after the votes are counted, the results gathered and finally communicated to the organizing committee, the Higher Independent Authority for the Elections (ISIE). On October 27th, however, the announcement of the results was not easy for many Tunisians. Today, many Tunisians claim that some political parties should never have risen to power as they are too radical or too liberal, not representing the will of the people.

To classify and judge political parties might be legitimate when discussing politics with friends or the family. But politicians, political commentators and journalists with close media ties and an impact on public opinion should be more responsible and think twice before making radical comments. This, by no means, implicates a return to censorship, but rather a responsibility for the consequences of public statements and actions. In the past, those who dared denouncing injustice and censorship were jailed and prohibited from having any professional activity. For years, the majority of Tunisian political parties suffered from censorship and exclusion that was thoroughly enforced by the government. Today, Tunisians are proud that the country’s emerging democracy is an open space for divergent political orientations and heated debates.

The results of the elections have been communicated to the world. The moderate Islamic party Ennahda and the Congress for the Republic (CPR) will dominate the Constituent Assembly for the period of transition. It is a scenario that nobody expected. If you have followed the media coverage of the electoral campaign, you have probably thought that Ennahda and the CPR will have some seats but never the majority. Yet, predictions were mere a senseless understanding of the newly born Tunisian democracy. They misrepresented the voting patterns and the political affiliations of the people, both in the Tunisian capital and remote areas.

The political debates and programs broadcast on some Tunisian media outlets have played a significant role in misleading the public opinion and underestimating the power of Ennahda and the CPR. There was a gap between the media’s understanding of the political situation in Tunisia and the reality on the ground. These two parties were demonized and accused of benefiting from foreign funds and assistance. The media thought that attacking these parties would weaken them and pave the ground for more liberal voices to occupy the seats at the Constituent Assembly. This strategy and propaganda, however, has had the opposite effect because it was based on accusations without evidence. Indeed, instead of preventing people from voting for Ennahda and the CPR, it reinforced their belief that the “victims” of the past were still targeted. The reaction was certainly unexpected but “natural”. At this level, one wonders whether we should trust our media outlets or the results of the elections, which have been described by foreign governments and the international media as “fair” and “transparent”.

M. Adnen Chaouachi is a journalist and radio presenter on Tunis International Radio. He is also a Teaching Assistant of Communication at the ISSHT, the University of Tunis-El Manar. M. Adnen Chaouachi is currently working on political communication and propaganda in the media.

Heavy rain flooded the streets of Tunis and uncovered the absence of public services.

On October 29th, during a visit to the  Tamim Foundation, former Interior Minister Ahmed Friaa revealed some of the concomitants circumstances that occurred during his rule, which lasted from 12 to 27 January 2011. Mr. Friaa expressed his distress and concerns in regards to the accusations he is facing, of which that of being against the Tunisian Revolution and one of Ben Ali’s henchmen. Such accusations have left him perplex as to their foundation, as he says he doesn’t understand where they come from.

He revealed that, on 11 January, Ben Ali called him and explained to him that he did not know what was really going on, and that his advisors tended to mislead him and hide the truth from him. That’s when, Friaa says, Ben Ali offered him the position, which he accepted, hoping to stabilize the situation.

On 13 January, Friaa claims he banned the use of real bullets on protesters, and that he condemned the use of violence. He also declared that on January 14th, while on the phone to him, Ben Ali could hear Tunisians shout “Ben Ali dégage” outside the Ministry of Interior.

The former interior minister apologized to those who he had unintentionally harmed, and for being a part of a regime that was persecuting its own people. He also added that many of the political figures dominating the post-revolution political arena were once Ben Ali’s supporters. He also said we ought to give Tunisian youth a full opportunity to build Tunisia.

 

 

Hamma Hammami Head of the Tunisian Communist Workers' Party

In an interview with Assbah, Hamma Hammami the leader of the Tunisian Communist Workers’ Party conceded defeat in the election battle for seats in the Constituent Assembly.  Hammami attributes the election loss of his party to the failure of leftist parties from working together.

For Hamma Hammami it is now time to get used to being in a minority bloc of the Constituent Assembly.  As the election was a first for Hammami, he can now look at this historical event from a critical perspective. There were a lot of breaches of the electoral law during the election and even before it began.

Quoting Kamal Jendoubi the head of ISIE, Hamma Hammami said that some political parties have spent twice the legally authorized budget on their electoral campaigns. He also said that the process of reporting political money has negatively impacted the integrity and transparency of the election. The Secretary General of the communist party mentioned that one the serious breaches of election law before the election was the use of mosques to promote some “Islamist” political parties, encouraging people to vote for parties with a religious agenda over other ones.

The Communist Worker’s Party claims to have documented their accusations of election fraud and Hamma Hammami said that he filed appeals in many districts.

Mr. Hammami re-emphasized his long held position that his party will not sit in a coalition containing parties ideologically opposed to his party. He said also that he and his party will form the opposition to anyone who tries to violate democracy or women’s rights.

Source : Assabah

Tunisian Dinars

According to latest reports, economical recovery in Tunisia is slowly underway, with a growth rate of 1% maximum during the second quarter of this year. This slowdown is expected to have negative repercussions on unemployment rates as well as on the country’s financial balance.

On Saturday, October 22, 2011, Mr. Fouad Mebazaa, Tunisia’s Interim  President, authenticated the 52nd annual report of the Central Bank of Tunisia (BCT) for the fiscal year 2010. The latter indicated that the stabilization of the economic situation can only be progressive, given the unpredictable variations of the international and regional environments, and the adjustments necessary to Tunisia’s democratic transition and that of its institutions.
The objective is first to make up, as soon as possible, for the hold up of economic activities, and then to proceed with the implementation of an economic program, to ensure stronger  growth and improve the economy’s performance in general. Measures were also taken by the Central Bank of Tunisia to help financial companies recover, and has lowered their interest rate from 4.5%  to 3.5%. According to the 2012 economic draft budget , investments will increase by 18.4% and provide at least 75.000 jobs. A 4.5% growth rate is also predicted.

According to a summary developed by the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, ”the economic budget for the year 2012 is different from those developed under the old regime.” Moreover, it is said that the Development Plan aims to fight against all forms of poverty and marginalization.

The Tunisian Syndicate for Journalists (SNJT)

The Tunisian Syndicate for Journalists (SNJT) denounced the release of a black list of journalists who supported the old regime. They claim that the list, which has circulated on the Internet, is fabricated.

This black list involves approximately fifty journalists and accuses them of supporting either the former regime or the Interior Ministry. According to the syndicate the list is completely inaccurate. The circulating list indicates being published by some young members of the syndicate, which has been denied by its executive office.

On October 29th, the syndicate released a communiqué condemning this online campaign, which began after the syndicate announced that there will be a black list of journalist who were loyalists and supported the former corrupt regime.

The syndicate also regrets having some journalists contributing to this campaign. It accuses the launchers of this campaign of disturbing the work of the commission in charge of defining the criteria for the journalist black list.

The SNJT has appointed a lawyer to start a lawsuit against the initiators of this campaign.

Source : BusinessNews

Maya Jribi and Ahmed Nejib Chebbi a week before the elections

The elections of the Constituent Assembly awarded only 17 seats to the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) out of a 217-seat assembly. Moderate Islamist party Ennahdha won 90 seats. The results were regarded as a failure for PDP members and candidates.

Before the election, the PDP was seen as having the potential to win a plurality of seats in the Constituent Assembly, perhaps even winning a majority in coalition with other center-left parties. Such predictions came from many voter opinion polls, which consistently showed the PDP as Ennahda’s chief rival and the largest center-left party.

The PDP is a secular party known for being fiercely opposed to Ennahda. During their electoral campaign, PDP often criticized Ennahdha for using religion and belief.

The PDP’s supporters believed that their party is strong enough to counterattack Ennahdha’s efforts to spread its ideology in the country and convince the people to let a new kind of moderate Islam rule the country.

Tunisians who voted for the PDP are also known for their strong refusal of a rising Islamism in the country, which even led to a rise to  Salafism and the emergence of a new groups  of people who sound to be extremely religious, for instance, Tahrir party.

In the aftermath of the elections, it appears that the PDP’s emphasis of its anti-Islamist stance drove away regular Tunisians, the majority of which are practicing Muslims. In a press release immediately after the elections, the PDP announced their “respect” for the choice of the Tunisian people. Party leader Maya Jribi said that the Tunisian people are entitled to choose for themselves and that they have chosen the program that was most attractive to them.

Now several days removed from the election, Iyed Dahmani, the PDP’s head of list in Siliana, told Tunisia Live that PDP”s goals were certainly not attained. He said that the Tunisian people sent the progressive party a clear message that the PDP was not doing enough to reach out to Tunisians.

PDP has reaffirmed that the party is still going to persist in the political scene in Tunisian as one of the prominent opposition figures. Even though they performed under expectations, they gained only four seats fewer than the leading center-left party.

Dahmani said that PDP is open to coalitions with other democratic progressive parties, especially Ettakatol. The two parties share good relations, though talk of a coalition before the elections never produced a real alliance.

Serious talks are now taking place to form a coalition government that will presumably be led by Ennahdha’s secretary-general Hammadi Jebali. The PDP has announced that they will not participate in this government but will be in the opposition. They also reaffirmed their willingness to put their fingerprints on the new constitution so that it represents all the Tunisian people and Tunisian society.

Dahmani foresees the PDP’s role in the new Tunisia as an opposition party who will not just obstruct every decision of the government but will certainly oppose all decisions or forces that might push Tunisian backward, in particular the moderate Islamist party, Ennahda.

Dahmani said that the PDP’s plan now is to continue its mission to go to the field, get in touch with people, and explain PDP’s programs.

“PDP has now realized its flaws and will be working in order to get more voices abd support during the next democratic elections.”

After the announcement of the cancelation of the lists of the Popular Petition (Al Aridha Chaabia) violent protests erupted in Sidi Bouzid

"No Nahda, no Aridha, from Bouzid and Proud"

The protest that took place in Sidi Bouzid yesterday resulted in many damages on account of the fires set in many public and security buildings.

According to Mouhiba Chaker, the situation is gradually back to calm this morning, and street sweepers along with many local volunteers have started a cleaning campaign to throw away the mess of Friday’s protests. “We totally regret what happened; this ruins the symbolic revolution of the town,” said Mouhiba. “Fortunately, many citizens raised the awareness about the threat behind such a protest in this period, otherwise things could have gone worse.”

Mounir Hmaidi, a shop owner in the center of the town, said that the new curfew from 7pm to 5am has not been lifted. Later yesterday, around 2,000 military officers were present to reinforce security measures.

The protests that started on Thursday night and Friday were not only objecting to the invalidation of nine seats won by the Aridha Chaabia party, three of those seats in Sidi Bouzid. On the subject of the protest, an unsigned call to general strike was published everywhere in the town. Many protestors expressed their anger towards the ignorance of the media over such an affair.

Above and beyond, many protesters said that what offended them most about the invalidation of the seats was the reaction of the journalists’ reaction following the decision of the cancellation of Aridha lists. When the electoral commission announced the first invalidation at a Tunis press conference, the assembled members of the Tunisian media burst into applause and sang the national anthem.

“Such conduct is implicitly an insult to us and shows suspicion about our choice,” said by Hssine Khlifi.

Many protesters also expressed outrage at a statement by Hamadi Jebali, secretary-general of Ennahda. His statement concerned Ennahda’s decision to form a coalition only with those who fought against Ben Ali, but protesters say that in the comment he derided the intelligence and literacy of Sidi Bouzid voters.

A member of Ennahdha’s bureau in Sidi Bouzid argued that the party of the former regime, the RCD, is definitely involved in stirring up the protest. “I saw many ex-RCD members among the protestors in a suspicious way.” This testimonial agrees with Ennahda party leader Rached Ghannouchi’s statements during a press conference held Friday in Tunis. “We totally believe that the former RCD members are fueling these events,” he told reporters.

Sheep coming from Libya during the crisis

With eight days left before Aid; people are beginning to buy sheep to sacrifice for the religious occasion.

Generally, people are complaining about the soaring prices, and according to a survey held by the National Institute of Consumption, 49% of Tunisians buy their sheep with available money from their salaries, 55% of them are obliged to borrow money, 19% resorted to saving, 4% buy the sheep by installment, and 9% supply themselves.

The rise in prices is usually blamed on middle men trying to increase their profit margin. During the Libyan crisis, many sheep arrived from Libya and were sold for cheap. These same animals are now being sold at far higher prices for both the Libyan and Tunisian markets.

Sidi Bouzid, the first spark of the revolution, is now witnessing a vital energy in this commercial field. It enjoys an excellent reputation for sheep-raising, and it is widely considered the best producer of sheep in Tunisia.

Tunisian market

Sidi Bouzid offers excellent quality and a huge quantity evaluated at 350,000 sheep; 300,000 are exported to the local market in different regions and 50,000 are for the local residents of Sidi Bouzid.

Sheep production has increased markedly this year, by 15% compared to the preceding year. What is more is that the ranchers in this area are relying on the natural grass of forests and pastures for and there are no chemical elements used in the raising process.

All these privileges make Sidi Bouzid the destination of many citizens who are looking for a sheep with a reasonable price and an excellent quality.

Source: Assabah, Al Maghreb 29/10/2011