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Posts tagged ‘Revival in Tunisia’

Tunisia sees 26 candidates for lively presidential election

September 13, 2019

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisia is holding a presidential election this weekend and among the 26 contenders are a jailed media tycoon, two prime ministers and a little-known Islamist with a big voter base.

The first-round election Sunday is seen as key to securing the North African nation’s young democracy as it struggles with economic troubles and Islamic extremism. Accusations of smear campaigns and corruption have been tossed around ahead of the election, which is being held to replace Tunisia’s democratically elected leader, who died in office in July.

With so many candidates, there’s no clear front-runner, although Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, jailed media magnate Nabil Karoui and Abdelfattah Mourou of the moderate Islamist party Ennahdha are getting attention.

It’s only the second democratic presidential election that Tunisia has held since its “jasmine revolution” in 2011 unleashed the Arab Spring protests.

Tunisia prepares for president’s funeral, new elections

July 26, 2019

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisia is inviting world leaders to attend the funeral for its president who died in office and preparing a new election to replace him. The next election was originally set for Nov. 17, but is being rescheduled after President Beji Caid Essebsi died in office Thursday at 92.

Tunisia’s first democratically elected leader, Essebsi won the presidency after Tunisia’s 2011 Arab Spring uprising. The electoral commission proposed holding the first round of a presidential vote Sept. 15, and is meeting Friday to confirm the date.

A national funeral ceremony for Essebsi is being held Saturday, and Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said several foreign leaders are expected to attend, without listing them. The White House expressed condolences for Essebsi, as did the U.N. and countries around the world.

Tunisia president ends alliance with Ennahda

Tuesday 25/09/2018

TUNIS – Efforts to rescue Tunisia’s ailing economy face the prospect of fresh turmoil after the president declared his alliance with moderate Islamists at an end, deepening divisions in a fragile coalition managing the country’s transition from autocracy.

Political analysts say Monday evening’s announcement by President Beji Caid Essebsi could make it difficult for the government to enact tough economic reforms sought by international lenders.

“There will be no real risk of toppling the government in parliament, but the problem is that division will deepen, social tension will rise and reforms are threatened under a fragile government coalition,” Nizar Makni, a journalist and analyst said.

“Reforms need broad consensus and the lack of compromise may lead to mass protests in the streets, especially that powerful unions rejected all proposed reforms”, he added.

Although struggling with high unemployment and inflation, the coalition of moderate Islamists and secular forces has been running what has been hailed as the Arab Spring’s only democratic success, avoiding the upheaval seen in Egypt, Libya or Syria.

The Ennahda Islamist party and secular Nidaa Tounes agreed in 2014 on a constitution granting far-reaching political rights, limiting the role of religion and holding free elections, which stands out in a region often run by autocrats.

But Tunisia fell into a political crisis again this year after Essebsi’s son, who is the leader of Nidaa Tounes, called for the dismissal of prime minister Youssef Chahed because of his government’s failure to revive the economy.

His demand was supported by the powerful UGTT union, which rejected economic reforms proposed by Chahed.

Austerity

But Ennahda came to Chahed’s defense, saying the departure of the prime minister would hit stability at a time when the country needed economic reforms.

In his more than two years in office, Chahed has pushed through austerity measures and structural reforms, such as cutting fuel subsidies that have helped to underpin a $2.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other financial support.

The president raised the stakes on Monday evening.

“The consensus and relationship between me and Ennahha has ended, after they chose to form another relationship with Youssef Chahed,” Essebsi, the founder of Nidaa Tounes, said in a televised interview.

Analysts said the president’s announcement would probably not lead to the overthrow of the government, which still has the support of at least 110 of a total 217 lawmakers in parliament.

But Chahed could find it difficult to enact tough reforms in the face of a strong opposition front including the unions, the president and Nidaa Tounes party.

Last week the UGTT labor union called a public sector strike for Oct. 24 to protest at Chahed’s privatization plans.

“The president’s comments will deepen the crisis,” senior Ennahda official Lotfi Zitoun told Reuters.

“Ennahda seeks stability and a dialogue that includes all partners to get out of the crisis.”

By surviving for more than two years, Chahed has become the longest-serving of Tunisia’s nine prime ministers since its Arab Spring democratic revolution in 2011.

Chahed has gathered enough support in parliament to stave off a possible vote of no confidence by working with Ennahda and a number of other lawmakers including 10 Nidaa Tounes rebels.

Since 2011 uprising, nine cabinets have failed to resolve Tunisia’s economic problems, which include high inflation and unemployment, and impatience is rising among lenders such as the IMF, which have kept the country afloat.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: https://middle-east-online.com/en/tunisia-president-ends-alliance-ennahda.

Tunisian fundamentalists protest report on sexual equality

August 11, 2018

BARDO, Tunisia (AP) — Thousands of Muslim fundamentalists protested Saturday in front of the nation’s parliament to decry proposals in a government report on gender equality that they claim are contrary to Islam.

Men and veiled women marched under a blazing sun from Tunis to Bardo, outside the capital where the parliament is located, to protest the report by the Commission of Individual Liberties and Equality. The report, among other things, calls for legalizing homosexuality and giving the sexes equal inheritance rights.

Security was heavy during the protest, which remained calm despite the anger the report has triggered. The crowd, who came from towns around Tunisia, cried out “Allahu akbar (God is great)” as they marched.

The protest was organized by the National Coordination for the Defense of the Quran, the Constitution and Equitable Development. The commission was put in place a year ago by President Beji Caid Essebsi, who is expected to speak about it on Monday, Women’s Day in Tunisia. It was not immediately clear whether the proposals would eventually be put before parliament.

The North African nation has, since its independence from France in 1956, been a standard-bearer in the Muslim world for women’s rights. But the proposals in the 300-page report, known as the Colibe report, would take human rights, including women’s rights, to another level. It proposes to end the death penalty and legalize homosexuality, which the current penal code outlaws and punishes with three years in prison.

The equal inheritance proposal is an abrupt change from current practices, which see males in a family receiving double the inheritance of females. The topics touching on sensitive areas have riled Muslims who embrace a literal reading of the Quran, the Muslim holy book.

“I’m here to defend the word of God and oppose any projects that harm the Islamic identity of our people,” said Kamel Raissi, a 65-year-old retiree. “We totally reject the Colibe report which contains an underhanded hate for Islam,” said Abdellatif Oueslati, a nurse from Jendouba, 155 kilometers (95 miles) west of Tunis.

The authors of the report say the proposals conform with the nation’s 2014 Constitution and international human rights obligations. “They in no way contravene Islamic precepts, but embody an enlightened reading of these precepts, which put them in step with the evolution of society,” said Abdelmajid Charfi, a university professor who is one of the report’s authors.

Protesters at Saturday’s rally were not convinced. Tarek Azouz worried that the proposals amounted to a “wish to destroy moral values” by legalizing homosexuality. If acted upon, he said, “we’ll end up with gay marriage.”

Elaine Ganley in Paris contributed.

Tunisia rejects NATO’s proposal to support establishment of anti-terrorism center

February 13, 2018

On Monday, the Tunisian defense ministry said it had rejected a NATO proposal that would grant Tunisia a 3 million euro grant in exchange for closer ties with the organization. The plan would have engaged a permanent role for NATO experts at an operations center in the country.

Defence Minister Abdelkarim Zbidi said his ministry, “rejected a proposal by NATO to give his country a grant of 3 million euros to receive permanent experts who would provide technical advice to the Tunisian military at an operations center in which the armies cooperate to secure borders and fight terrorism which Tunisia plans to develop.”

During a hearing at the Tunisian parliament’s security and defense committee, on Monday, Zbidi explained that “The ministry is working on a project to complete a joint center for planning, leading operations, for information analysis and to lead joint operations between the military forces.”

He added that his ministry “requested the provision of a grant to Tunisia, provided that no party from outside the Tunisian military establishment would intervene in this center, and that the location where the center is to be established be inside Tunisian territories and chosen by the Ministry of Defense.”

Zbidi also pointed out that the terrorist threat still persists in his country especially on the western borders with Algeria and eastern borders with Libya.

He added: “Some terrorist combatants are still active in the western highlands of the governorates of Kasserine, El Kef and Jendouba.”

According Zbidi, the Tunisian military units carried out about one thousand military operations in suspicious areas in different governorates of the country, which led to the elimination of 5 terrorist combatants, uncovering 28 hideouts, the destruction and neutralization of more than 100 mines, the seizure of equipment and various possessions, the killing of two military agents together with 45 others injured at different degrees.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180213-tunisia-rejects-natos-proposal-to-support-establishment-of-anti-terrorism-centre/.

Tunisia journalists protest ‘erosion of press freedoms’

February 2, 2018

Tunisian journalists on Friday staged a demonstration in Tunis to protest alleged government restrictions on their activities.

Held outside the headquarters of the Tunisian Journalists Syndicate, protesters decried restrictions on their journalistic activities imposed by Tunisia’s Interior Ministry.

Organized by syndicate members, Friday’s protest was endorsed by the Tunisian Human Rights League, an NGO; the Tunisian General Labor Union, the country’s largest labor union; and a number of prominent political and judicial figures.

“The current government, especially Interior Minister Lotfi Brahem, remain silent while journalists are being subject to persecution,” syndicate head Naji Baghouri said on the demonstration’s sidelines.

He went on to call for a nationwide general strike if government ministers remained “complicit” in the persecution of journalists.

Baghouri pointed in particular to the interior minister’s recent admission — made during a Monday session of parliament — that the ministry was tapping certain journalists’ phones.

Amna Guellali, director of Human Rights Watch’s Tunis office, told Anadolu Agency: “Today’s protest comes against the backdrop of the ongoing erosion of press freedoms in Tunisia since the 2011 revolution.”

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180202-tunisia-journalists-protest-erosion-of-press-freedoms/.

Seven years since Tunisian revolution, hope turns to despair

2018-01-13

TUNIS – Seven years since the Tunisian revolution that ignited the Arab Spring uprisings, 38-year-old Walid has no job and says people are even more hungry than they were under dictatorship.

Anger over poverty and unemployment erupted into protests and clashes this week that have led to hundreds of arrests ahead of Sunday’s anniversary of the overthrow of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

“It’s been seven years and we’ve seen nothing happen. We’ve had freedom, it’s true, but we’re more hungry than before,” Walid said in Tebourba near the capital Tunis.

Desperation over police harassment and unemployment drove a Tunisian street vendor to set himself on fire on December 17, 2010 in a town in the country’s neglected interior.

Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old university graduate who eked out a living selling fruit, died weeks later, fueling social unrest that spread across much of the Arab world.

Following a wave of protests, Ben Ali resigned on January 14, 2011 after 23 years in power.

He fled to Saudi Arabia, becoming the first leader to stand down in the Arab Spring.

Compared to other countries rocked by uprisings such as Libya and Yemen which are still deep in turmoil, Tunisia has been praised for its steps towards democracy.

A new constitution was adopted and legislative and presidential polls held in 2014.

But disillusion remains rife.

The country has “the same economic model, with the same problems” as before, the president of the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, Messaoud Romdhani, told AFP.

“So the situation keeps getting worse.”

In a report released last month, the group warned that despite democratic advances, “unemployment, misery and social and regional inequalities have worsened”.

Tunisia has been convulsed by sometimes-violent demonstrations since Monday in which youths throwing stones and Molotov cocktails have clashed with security forces who responded with tear gas.

Dozens of people have been injured and more than 800 arrested on charges including theft, looting and arson.

One protester died on Monday night in Tebourba though police have insisted they did not kill him.

– ‘Potential for resistance’ –

In the latest protest, hundreds of Tunisians took to the streets of Tunis and the coastal city of Sfax on Friday, waving yellow cards and demanding that the government reverse austerity measures.

The demonstrations “reveal an anger carried by the same people who mobilized in 2011 and obtained nothing in terms of economic and social rights,” said political scientist Olfa Lamloum.

The trigger of the new protests was a finance law imposing tax hikes after a year of rising prices.

The Tunisian economy has never recovered from the instability that followed the revolution.

The key tourism sector was dealt another crushing blow by jihadist attacks that shook the country in 2015 including the beachside massacre of 38 foreign holidaymakers.

The government was forced to turn to the International Monetary Fund which lent Tunisia $2.9 billion in 2016 on condition that it reduced its budget and trade deficits.

Youth unemployment remains above 35 percent according to the International Labor Organization.

Every year since 2011, 10,000 children have dropped out of primary school and 100,000 young people have left college or high school without diplomas, says the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights.

In a sign of growing disenchantment, illegal emigration reached the highest level since 2011 in the autumn.

Municipal polls seen as the final stage in Tunisia’s transition to democracy have been delayed until May, while fresh legislative and presidential elections are planned for 2019.

But the democratic steps have not extinguished the revolutionary fervor altogether.

“The potential for resistance is still there,” Lamloum said. “Young people still have the same dream for Tunisia even if it will take time.”

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=86763.

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