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Tunisia - 2011 Transition

The former president Ben Ali fled the country 14 January 2011 after a month of protests and rioting sparked by widespread unemployment and high food prices. His departure ended more than two decades of authoritarian rule. When Ben Ali departed the country, interim authority fell to Fouad Mebazaa, the President of the National Assembly. Mebazaa was a long-time ruling RCD party stalwart (a member of the RCD Politburo, a former Minister, and a "survivor" from the Bourguiba era), whose principal task as interim President would be to organize elections and, from an RCD perspective, maintain the party's hold on power.

On 18 January 2011 Tunisian President Fouad Mebazaa and Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi reportedly resigned from the ruling Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) party. Education Minister Taieb Baccouch also resigned. Three opposition leaders - Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, Ahmed Brahim and Mustapha Ben Jaafar - were brought into the government. Tunisia's main opposition party, Democratic Forum for Labor and Unity, refused to rejoin the nation's floundering "unity" government. The three members of the opposition UGTT trade union quit, including transport and labor ministers, saying they had "no confidence" in the government. On 20 January 2011 Tunisian state television reported that ministers from Tunisia's interim government had all resigned from the ruling party of the ousted former president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Tunisia's transitional government appeared to be making good its promise to usher in a new political era. On 02 February 2011, it fired more than two dozen top police officers and, all 24 of the country's governors. Tunisia's judiciary is also investigating the vast assets belonging to ousted leader Ben Ali and his family, who are accused of financial abuses. Foreign Minister Ahmed Ouanies says the probe is an affair for Tunisia's justice, which is independent and must work at its own pace. The European Union announced it was freezing overseas assets belonging to leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his associates.

Prime Minister Ghannouchi said Tunisia would work toward transparent, fair elections under the supervision of international observers. A presidential poll was to be held within 60 days [but this did not happen]. In order to be eligible to run for the presidency, a candidate must be no older than 75, be a member of a party with at least one member in parliament, and obtain the signatures of 30 deputies and/or mayors.

  • Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi (born 18 August 1941) is a career technocrat and trained economist, Ghannouchi had served as Prime Minister since 1999. Ghannouchi was rumored to have told many that he wished to leave the government but had not had the opportunity. The length of his service as PM also suggested that Ben Ali did not view him as a threat and that he was unlikely to be viewed as a qualified successor. However, average Tunisians generally viewed him with respect and he was well-liked in comparison to other officials.

  • Foreign Minister Kamel Morjane (9 May 1945) appointed Minister of Defense in August 2005 after years of United Nations service, at one point had USG support for his candidacy to be the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and has been helpful as Minister. An oft-repeated notion that the US favors Morjane in the succession race affects the credibility of succession scenarios.

  • Minister of State Abdelaziz Ben Dhia was often mentioned as a possible successor, given his strong position in the palace. Since he was born in 1936, Ben Dhia's age is the prime obstacle to the likelihood he would be Ben Ali's successor, as he also would be ineligible to run in the 2014 elections. However, rumored to be equally liked by the President and First Lady, Ben Dhia could act as a placeholder while a younger family member, such as one of Ben Ali's son-in-laws, gained political power. Ben Dhia's long history of government service, including under Bourguiba, may give him widespread public support, although his relatively secretive responsibilities in the palace cause some consternation among average Tunisians. These same unknown responsibilities have also supported Ben Dhia's reputation in Tunisia as an eminence grise - the brilliant behind-the-scenes decision maker in the palace.

  • Former Minister of Social Affairs Ali Chaouch (born in 1948) has held two positions that have given him great exposure to the Tunisian public: as RCD Secretary General from 2000-04, and later as the Minister of Social Affairs. However, he also occupied the despised position of Minister of Interior, which while it may have given him the background to run a dictatorship, earned him little popularity with the Tunisian public. He left the government in the cabinet reshuffle of 14 January 2010 before being appointed in February as the Tunisian ambassador to Austria.

After the revolution that deposed former President Zine El-Abidine Ben Alis two-decade-long regime on 14 January 2011, interim Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi first led an interim government. But on 26 February 2011 Mohammed Ghannouchi, announced his resignation amid ongoing protests for the entire government to step down. Mohammed Ghannouchi's departure was not enough for the hundreds of protesters who massed in front of government offices.

Mohammed Ghannouchi was followed as Prime Minister by former Foreign Minister Beji Caid Essebsi, who called the country's previous administration " a gang of saboteurs". Tunisia's new Prime Minister Beji Caid Esseb presided over the government and preparations for the countrys Constituent Assembly elections. The elections were first set for July 2011, but in June 2011 were postponed until October 23.

After the revolution, the historically dominant Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) party was dissolved and outlawed. More than 100 political parties registered to run in the Constituent Assembly elections. Those parties that did not receive accreditation were rejected due to incomplete applications or because their programs were found to be inconsistent with laws prohibiting discrimination and parties based on religion. There were no reports of government interference with the right to organize, stand for election, publicizing views, or campaigning. Political party youth wings were not restricted.

Major Political parties [and leaders] include Afek Tounes [Emna MINF]; al-Nahda (The Renaissance) [Rachid GHANNOUCHI]; Congress Party for the Republic or CPR [Moncef MARZOUKI]; Democratic Forum for Labor and Liberties or FDTL (Ettakatol) [Mustapha Ben JAAFAR]; Democratic Modernist Pole or PDM (a coalition); Democratic Socialist Movement or MDS; Et-Tajdid Movement [Ahmed IBRAHIM]; Green Party for Progress or PVP [Mongi KHAMASSI]; Liberal Social Party or PSL [Mondher THABET]; Movement of Socialist Democrats or MDS [Ismail BOULAHYA]; Popular Petition (Aridha Chaabia) [Hachemi HAMDI]; Popular Unity Party or PUP [Mohamed BOUCHIHA]; Progressive Democratic Party or PDP [Maya JERIBI]; The Initiative [Kamel MORJANE] (formerly the Constitutional Democratic Rally or RCD); Tunisian Workers' Communist Party or PCOT [Hamma HAMMAMI]; Unionist Democratic Union or UDU [Ahmed INOUBLI].



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