Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tunisian Crisis Continues As Prime Minister Cedes Power To Parliament

Who exactly is in charge in Tunisia now that former thug in charge Zine El Abidine Ben Ali went into exile and his Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi has ceded power to the speaker of the Parliament.

While that sounds like a democratic transfer of power, the truth of the matter is that everyone involved in the events of the past week are allied with Ben Ali and are culpable for the horrendous conditions in the country.
Mr. Ghannouchi, 69, a close ally of Mr. Ben Ali from his home town of Sousse, had declared himself interim president on Friday in violation of the Tunisian constitution, and he immediately became a target of the popular anger that brought down Mr. Ben Ali. By late Friday night, Facebook pages that had provided a central forum for the revolt had replaced their slogan “Ben Ali, Out” with a new one: “Ghannouchi, out!”

Some Tunisians on Saturday attributed the continued rioting over night to anger at Mr. Ghannouchi’s “coup,” but in the chaos around the capital it was becoming hard to distinguish protests from looting.

The handover to the speaker of parliament announced Saturday accords with the provisions of the Tunisian constitution. The speaker, Foued Mebazaa, is expected to hold elections to reconstitute the government within 60 days.

Tunisia, however, has essentially been a one-party police state with no record of free elections, so the speaker of the parliament is himself another ally guided to his position by Mr. Ben Ali.
Ben Ali stayed in power because he surrounded himself with people who he could trust. Ghannouchi, with an economics background sounded good on paper, but he had been closely alligned with Ben Ali since he entered the Ben Ali government in 1999. He was as much of a problem as Ben Ali.

The conditions in the country remain perilous, and there are reports that a fire at a Tunisian prison has killed at least 42 detainees.

Also, reports that Ben Ali had fled to France yesterday were incorrect. Ben Ali fled to Jedda, Saudi Arabia.

Conditions and reports are contradictory as to what is going on in Tunis, the capital of the country:
No street protests in the capital, Tunis, were reported Saturday, but reports of rioting and looting in the country and the burning of Tunis' main train station have surfaced. Security forces also have been spotted rounding up and roughing up people.

At least 42 people died when a fire swept through a prison in the eastern Tunisian city of Monastir, Dr. Ali Chadley of the University Hospital of Monastir told CNN. It was not immediately clear what sparked the fire.

A travel warning from the British Foreign Office on Saturday said "there have been demonstrations, some violent" In Tunis and other locations, citing Sousse, Sfax, Nabul, Hammamet, Douze, Kasserine, Requeb and Thia.

"There was significant looting in Tunis overnight and there continue to be reports of rioting and looting, including in residential areas," said the office, which recommended against all but essential travel to the country.

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