Putting up some of my writing from Tunisia's February crisis. Originally published by Green Left Weekly.
The assassination of left-wing leader Chokri Belaid has thrown the
interim government of Tunisia, led by Islamist party Ennahda (the
Renaissance), into a deep crisis. Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali has
threatened to resign if his proposed "technocratic" solution can't be
The death of Belaid, a well-respected leader of the united left group Popular Front, led to widespread protests, including tens of thousands on the streets of Tunis for his memorial on February 8.
Jebali, a member of Ennahda, responded to the crisis by proposing a government of “technocrats”, like the one that ruled after the resignation of PM Mohamed Ghannouchi in February 2011. Such a government would hurry the writing of the new constitution, now in the hands of the Constituent Assembly (CA), and organise new elections.
This move has put him at odds with Ennahda party leaders. Fethi
Ayadi, president of Ennahdha party's Shura Council, told Express FM
radio on February 11 that the party opposes Jebali's proposition.
Protesters were quick to blame Ennahda for Belaid's assassination.
Party headquarters were attacked with stones and Molotov cocktails
across the country. As yet, the killers have not been identified by
On February 11, journalist Zied El Heni reported
"very serious information" concerning the assassination, including the
names of government members, to the tribunal into Belaid's death in
Tunis, reported Mosaique FM radio.
A February 8 editorial in the British Guardian,
however, argued that Ennahda would not benefit from the killing of
Belaid. Instead, it identified ex-members of the RCD, dictator Zine
el-Abidine Ben Ali's party, as being in a position to profit.
On the day Belaid was assassinated, the assembly was due to debate a
measure designed to bar former RCD members from office for five years.
However, The Guardian’s defence of Ennahda papers over the
party’s inability to reform the security apparatus or effectively deal
with political violence. Belaid had told the interior ministry of
threats against his life weeks before his death, yet no action was
taken, Al Monitor said on February 10.
A new report on Tunisia issued by the International Crisis Group on February 13 identified Ennahda’s inability to rein in political violence as a major issue.
In the absence of an appropriate answer by the authorities and the
dominant Islamist party, violence in all its shades "whether tied to
social, demographic, urban, political, or religious causes", could well
cross a perilous threshold, the report said.
The ICG identified three key areas where action needs to be taken to
address violence and discontent: the marginalisation of young, poor
Tunisians; the debate between secular and religious forces in the CA;
and the movement of jihadi fighers throughout the region.
However, this fails to get to the root of the discontent with the
interim government's inability to fulfil the demands of the January 14
In a Le Temps piece he authored several weeks before his death, Belaid said:
“Two years after the outbreak of the Revolution its... causes are still
there. They have deepened, whether at the level of social demands,
employment, regional development, social justice or political reality.
"Tunisia is opening a second page in the revolutionary process,
against the despotic Ennahda project protecting corruption and
A key part of this “second page” has been regional uprisings in interior regions of Sidi Bouzid and Siliana.
Hamma Hammami, spokesperson of the Popular Front, told Express FM
Radio on February 13 the Front rejected Jebali's proposal for a
technocratic government. It instead proposed a government of “national
Hammami said the tasks of such a government should include the review
of Belaid's case, developing a timeline for the next elections, the
establishment of social peace through measures to reduce the high cost
of living, job creation, taxing large fortunes, and suspension of
foreign debt repayment for two to three years.