Monthly Archives: April 2014

A recent article of Beji Caed Essebsi, Tunisia interim prime minister, in the New York Times, last October 3rd, seem to have triggered another controversy in Tunisia. The article also preceeded the visit of the prime minister to the USA.

In the article, Essebsi says that he is ready to join the next post-elections government. Essebsi’s own words are “In politics, it ends only when one dies.” These words triggered the discontent of many Tunisians who still think that Essebsi and his fellows’ generation should have ended by the overthrowing of Ben Ali and that it’s high time youth took more serious positions in the government.

A young lawyer named Assia Haj Salem told the New York Times will have to assassinate him herself if he ever does not step down deliberately. “He is rejected by the people,” she adds.

Political parties in Tunisia didn’t appreciate hearing such words from the prime minister. Previously, Essebsi confirmed that his government’s duty will end with the elections. Parties stressed that such cliché have a negative impact on the Tunisian people’s perception of the political future of the country, especially because they have been used by the two first dictators that ruled the country ever since its independence.

Interim Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi delivered a speech before a large audience of Tunisians, Arabs, and foreigners at the World Bank in Washington, DC yesterday. The Tunisian prime minister gave an illustration of the Tunisian revolution, stressing non-violence as its defining characteristic. Then Essebsi answered the audience’s questions, in French.

Barack Obama’s administration invited Essebsi to come to the US and speak about the Tunisian revolution and the Arab Spring. The visit is planned to stretch from October 3rd to October 7th. Essebsi has met and will meet several representatives of the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Hilary Clinton and other repsentative from the State Department, as well as US President Barack Obama tomorrow, Friday.

Among  the various questions asked,  Essebsi was questioned about the rise of Islam in the country and whether it had any big influence in the country’s political path. Essebsi gave the familiar explanation that Ennahda, Tunisia’s Islamist current prominent party, is only one party among others. He added that the party’s popularity drives from the Tunisian people’s sympathy with the party given its long-lasting struggle against the former regime.

When speaking about the Arab Spring and Tunisia revolution, Essebsi addressed Western countries, highlighting their historic democracies. He said that he wishes that Tunisian democratic transition will be an inpiration for other nations and especially other fellow Arab countries.

On another question relating to the situation of women in Tunisia, Essebsi first ironically mentioned the new law in Saudi Arabia which will allow Saudi women to vote, emphasizing the gigantic difference between the two countries. Essebsi argued that the Tunisian woman has even more rights in Tunisia than in the US, often known as the land of freedoms.

Such statements recieved a great welcome from the audience, which responded with a standing ovation.

Here are the top stories in the Tunisian press, October 6th, 2011:

Moncef Trabelsi, brother-in-law of the ousted Tunisian President Ben Ali, was sentenced yesterday, October 5th, to serve three years in jail and has been fined three thousand dinars.

During the Ben Ali era, Moncef Trabelsi scammed a Palestinian businessman by promising to pull political strings in order to guarantee the businessman a monopoly over the hydrocarbon market in the South of Tunisia.  In exchange for his help, Moncef was to receive two million dinars from the businessman.  In the end, however, Moncef accepted the two million dinars, but allowed the hydrocarbon market to end up in the hands of another company.

In response, the Palestinian businessman filed a lawsuit against Moncef Trabelsi to the Commission for Fighting Against Corruption, who eventually transmitted the case to the Tunisian Judiciary.

Sources: Le Temps, Business News

A photo capture of the studio of Doha Dabtes

Nine months after the revolution of January 14th, Tunisia is back in the spotlight. International media has returned to the country and not just to rest after their hectic missions to Libya during the revolution. They are here to cover the electoral campaign and the elections on October 23rd. These elections are in place to elect the members of a Constituent Assembly that will draft a new constitution for the country.

BBC World News’s anchor Tim Sebastian is particularly interested in making the elections the topic of an upcoming Arab Debate. The Arab Debate is the successor of Doha Debates, which was a forum for free speech in Qatar where the audience gets to dispute controversial statements announced by a mediator. The first post-revolution Doha Debate was held in the institute of le-Patrimoine in the Kasbah in Tunis on February 22nd, where the audience discussed whether the Arab spring could produce new dictators. At that time, 70% agreed with the thesis.

Tunisian bloggers and civic society activists came to meet Tim Sebastian at a pub in downtown Tunis. Yassine Ayari, a well-known Tunisian blogger and independent candidate, also came to the small meeting with BBC journalists to share his opinion about the electoral process. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss ideas for a thesis to debate.

Tim Sebastian had many questions to give to the attendees, who were also eager to share their experience of political change in the country and their expectations from the election.

The bloggers all seemed to share the same opinions about particular subjects, such as Tunisia’s importance to the Arab Spring , which begun in Tunisia. The bloggers were unanimous, though, to say that though they follow closely what is currently happening in neighboring and other Arab countries such as Libya, Bahrain and Syria, they are not particularly communicating with other bloggers in these countries.

Another unanimous answer was that, even most bloggers try hard to incorporate themselves into the Arab Spring movement, countries such as Syria, Bahrain and Yemen remain “foreign” for them.

When Sebastian raised the issue of the elections and electoral campaigning, different opinions burst out. A blogger explained firmly that she was only interested to report the information and keep an eye open on the candidates, and not get involved. Another civic society activist said that she was interested in observing the elections.

Yassine Ayari, who is fully invested in campaigning for the elections at the moment, spoke about the electoral campaign of his party and how they are traveling across Tunisia to listen to people and listen to their problems instead of indoctrinating them with their rhetoric.

Sebastian was also particularly interested in the rise of Islamic parties in the country after the revolution and how the citizens might react to that. The group seemed to come together, once again, on another idea and it was that everyone in the country is willing to accept democracy with all of  its potential outcomes.

Yesterday, Lotfi Zitoun, a famous member of Ennahdha’s political office, was arrested in Istanbul’s airport. The Turkish forces acted upon an arrest warrant issued during Ben Ali’s regime. According to Zoubair Chehoudi, the press secretary of Ennahdha, the apprehension lasted for several hours before he was released again.

Zitoun went to Istanbul to attend a conference assuming that the current government cancelled all warrants issued by the former regime. Chehoudi called the arrest a “bureaucratic mistake.”

Editor’s note: A typo in the original version of this article incorrectly stated that Lotfi Zitoun was attending a conference in Israel. The conference was in Istanbul.

UPL poster

The elections are approaching — no doubt about it. The campaigns that started off slowly on October 1st have now taken full force, and political parties and independents are now using all sorts of techniques to compete with one another to reach Tunisian citizens.

“The end justifies the means” has been several parties justification for various activities.  For example, the UPL — a party born after the revolution, with the remarkable comeback of its founder Slim Riahi and his undefined money –  has been accused of going to any means to gain Tunisians’ votes. The party used advertisements after political advertisements were banned, was accused of paying citizens for their votes, and has had their money sources questioned.

Another party raising a huge debate in the political scene is the famous Islamist party, Ennahda.  Like the UPL, this party has been accused of using money to gain votes, yet even more, it has been criticized for using religion to gain popularity.

Various political parties post their advertisements on these signboards

Since the political campaign began, Ennahda has targeted inland regions, claiming that these are the regions needing the most help.  Yet, Al-Chourouk’s report on the Ennahda meeting recently held in Mornagia did not provide any clear details about the party’s program — all that was mentioned were vague concepts about providing jobs for the jobless and guaranteeing freedom. Ennahda has also been accused of bribing citizens and giving them gifts in return for their votes. Of course Ennahda has denied these accusations, but rumors have not stopped.

The Democratic Modernist Pole is also currently at the forefront of the electoral race. The Pole, or Al Qotb, started the campaign strongly, sending teams to campaign throughout the country and holding meetings all over Tunisia, as well. This newborn political party — which actually is an alliance of several other parties with the same strategy — is growing in its advocates. But its campaign has not always been welcomed.  Advocates of Al Qotb were stopped from distributing their fliers and brochures in Djerba, due to claims that political advertising is now banned and that no political parties have the right to distribute any promotional handouts.

Al Qotb, or the Pole, distributes political advertisements in Djerba before being stopped from doing so by authorities

The race for seats in the Constituent Assembly has indeed taken off, and all of the Tunisian political parties are trying to jump onto the bandwagon.  The most important question at the moment, however, is, “Will the people even be interested in voting on October 23rd?”

 

Mehdi Houas The Minister of Commerce and Tourism

The Tunisian Minister of Tourism and Commerce, Mehdi Houas, recently announced that Tunisia has promised to provide a large portion of Tunisian sheep to help meet Libyans’ need for meat consumption this year.

According to the Minister, Tunisia has received 70 thousand sheep from Libya since the Tunisian revolution began.  Moreover, Webmanagercenter.com has reported that Tunisia has 830 thousand sheep available for this year’s EÏd Al-Adha (a Muslim celebration, in which observers sacrifice sheep). Tunisia’s sheep consumption usually ranges between 800 thousand and 1.2 thousand sheep. Whether or not providing Libya with sheep will increase Tunisian need for the livestock remains unclear.

Meat traders at Elouhoum Company have taken this opportunity to complain about their current situation. Their major complaints are that taxes to enter the hay market are mandatory, and that the price of hay is very high.

Source: Webmanagercenter.com

 

Normally, the words “surgery” and “vacation” do not go together, but a growing trend has seen the two coupled together more and more. Although cosmetic surgery travel is increasingly popular for a number of reasons, the overriding issue tends to be its cost. In the United States, Great Britain, or any other European country, cosmetic and dental surgery are cost-prohibitive, driving many patients to consider other destinations for their operations, where he or she can both undergo the aesthetic surgery and enjoy a relaxing vacation.

Tunisia is among the most-demanded countries in this field of “aesthetics tourism.” Several Tunisian travel agencies have recently specialized in this particular service, as is the case of Estetika Tours.   According to Amor Dhissy, founder of the agency, “Tunisia receives about 1,000 patients per year to have their aesthetic surgeries in different specialties.  As for nationality, 80% of patients are French,  and 10% are English,” reported Dhissy. The most-requested surgery by foreigners in Tunisia is liposuction.  Plastic surgery clinics in Tunisia also specialize in: hair transplants, tummy tucks, breast reductions, breast enhancements, cervicofacial lifts, blepharoplasty, and rhinoplasty.

As for the details of the offer, it is rather attractive. Everything is done via the Internet. The patient chooses a clinic via the tour operator selected. The travel agency then simply forwards the request with photos and medical records to a specialized surgeon, who will review the application and prepare a cost estimate.  Once the patient accepts the estimate, the travel agency sets a date for surgery and related services. Generally, the packages include surgery, clinical fees, hospitalization, post-operation care, medication, two-way-flights, transfers, and full board accommodation at a hotel in Tunisia.

What makes these packages so sought-after is their competitive prices. A team of skilled Tunisian cosmetic surgeons can ensure the desired results with a price that is a fraction of the cost of similar operations in Europe or the United States.  Amor confirmed that aesthetic surgery costs between 30% and 50%  less in Tunisia than it does in Europe.  For example, it costs approximately € 6,000 for breast implants in France, compared to  € 2,600 in Tunisia.

Tunisia now has more than 80 private clinics, equipped with facilities as efficient as those in European countries.  Moreover, an elite group specializing in plastic surgery has emerged within the country. Yet, Tunisia continues to offer services at prices two times lower than in Europe, driving the success of “aesthetics tourism.”

Al Quotb (Pole)

The Democratic Modernist Pole (PDM), or Al Quotb (The Pole), is a coalition of five civil associations and four parties — of which Ettajdid Movement is the most prominent.

The party was founded on May 31st, 2011, after the Tunisian revolution.  It is center-left, and it is one of only a few parties represented in all 27 polling districts across Tunisia, as well as in the six polling districts overseas. Its lists are coalitions of all the parties and associations that formed the party, thus, these parties no longer have their own electoral lists. They are running for the Constituent Assembly as part of the Democratic Modernist Pole.

The economic and social programs of the PDM rely heavily on its parties’ and associations’ economic ideologies, particularly social democracy and left-republicanism.

The Democratic Modernist Pole has attracted numerous public figures and intellectuals, such as Nejib Bel Kadhi and Salma Baccar — Tunisian movie directors — and Mohamed Ben Romdhane — Doctor of Applied Mathematics at The State University of Virginia, one of the experts who designed the economic plans for the PDM.  Political commentators from Business News have given the party’s programs credit for their “credibility and realism.”

The PDM has attracted many teachers and lawyers, who are highly represented in the party’s electoral lists throughout Tunisia.  At the same time, the party’s lists also include one unemployed candidate, several unionists, and a stay-at-home mom, which enhances the PDM’s claim to fully represent the Tunisian people, with all their diversity.

The party’s electoral program is detailed in 110 points, covering constitutional, societal, economic, cultural, and even environmental reforms to be incorporated into the new constitution.

The party speaks particularly of a new “Dignity Act,” which promises to provide Tunisian citizens more freedoms and a better quality of life.  This act pledges to guarantee Tunisians a job, a decent home, drinking water, safety, and food supplies, as well as free education for youngsters — all of which are very relevant topics at the moment and therefore could be persuasive for Tunisian voters.

The PDM tops off its electoral program by listing many of the freedoms that it promises to protect, such as civic rights, the freedom of expression, and the freedom of political choice.

The party also highlights the rights of women, children, and the elderly.  Artists and cultural figures who adhere to the party have influenced its cultural program, since the PDM speaks of doubling the Ministry of Culture’s budget and of expanding on Tunisia’s cultural and entertainment sectors.

Within the party’s platform, there is also mention of environmental reforms, in order to enhance sustainable development and to boost the economy by relying on more renewable sources of energy.

The PDM is one of the few parties that has released a public statement reinforcing the right of the Palestinians to claim their country’s full statehood in the UN.

In terms of popularity, the PDM has gathered adherents and supporters from all four parties and five associations that comprise it.  Although, there is no sign of the PDM in recent polls, the party’s alliance with civil associations should alert voters of the party’s intentions to improve the situation of Tunisians across the country.

Pole only obtained 4 seats/217 in the constituent assembly.