For a week now a square in Bardo, Tunis, has been the scene of pro and anti-government demonstrations. Because it is hot and Ramadan (holy month in which Muslims are supposed to fast at day) the demonstrations start to attract more people after the sun has gone down and people finished eating. The square has been divided in two and police forces are present to keep the crowd of both sides separated. So far there have not been real problems.
The anti-government demonstrators have until now (Saturday) been outnumbering the pro-government supporters by far. This is because most pro-government supporters are Nahdaouis (Ennahda supporters) whereas anti-government supporters are from several different political backgrounds or just a-political people who are utterly dissatisfied with the current governments’ performance. The pro-government supporters shout slogans emphasizing the legitimacy of this government and disapproving a coupe d’etat such as happened in Egypt a couple of weeks ago. The coup in Egypt had unfortunately directly a polarizing effect in Tunisia. Many of the opposition felt inspired to also bring down “the Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood government”, although the majority of them do not favour a coup as happened in Egypt. Which is a wise thing to favour that.
The anti-government demonstrators shout slogans related to what they perceive as the failure of the current government in issues such as justice, lack of democracy and their inability to tackle the national security problem and find the people who assassinated Chokri Belaid and Mohamed al-Brahmi. A socialist and Nasserist politician and both of them part of the opposition.
Apart from all those protests the government is negotiating with the opposition to find a solution that benefits “the national interest of Tunisia” in order to be able to get out of the crisis. It is definitely a crisis after leftist politician Mohamed al-Brahmi was assassinated last week.
However, it has been silent for days now and it seems that all political parties involved are having a hard time trying to come to an agreement. The government is led by Ennahda and they made clear that they are open to a government reshuffle and including members of opposition parties in it. However they refuse an indepedent “technocratic government” arguing the current government has the legitimacy of the people after free and fair elections.
Their secular coalition-partner Ettakatol however made clear that they would only accept a national salvation government or otherwise step out of the coalition. Although I haven’t heard anything of Ettakatol in days anymore and it would not surprise me if they would change their stance.
Well-known opposition parties such as the Popular Front, Republican Party or Call of Tunisia have all been unanimous about only accepting an independent “technocratic government” that will then lead the country until the 17th of December when national elections are supposed to take place. An important note here is that former Prime-Minister Hamadi Jebali (Ennahdha) stepped down after insisting and attempting to form a technocratic government in the aftermath of Chokri Belaid’s assassination last February. His party however strongly disagreed with him and after he failed to form a technocratic government he resigned himself. In the end the government agreed to do a reshuffle and gave some important tasks (such as Ministry of Justice) to independent candidates and the crisis seemed back then for a moment to be settled.
Another important question is what is left to do with the parliament. Until the assassination last week the constitution was just about to be finalized after one and a half year of intense and sometimes tense voting on each and every article of it. According to my information approximately 60 MP’s announced their immediate resignation from parliament last week. Some opposition parties such as the Popular Front are calling for the direct dissolution of the Tunisian parliament whereas other parties including all three of the Troika-government are refusing that and call it “a red line”. It is obvious that amid the demonstrations and increasing national security problems pressure is mounting to find a solution that is in the best interest of Tunisia in order to find a way out of the crisis. Nevertheless both sides (pro and anti-government) are besides the negotiation table still investing time in showing their strength on the streets in organizing demonstrations. Ennahda announced a “million mars” for today, Saturday. On Facebook many video’s passed my news feed where Nahda called for everyone who supports “democracy and the legitimacy of the government” and “refuses a coup” to come to al-Kasbah today, in Tunis. As organized as Ennahda is they rent many buses and minibuses to get their supporters from all around Tunisia to Tunis to show their strength. Moreover, their powerful friends in Qatar were also generous to dedicate an Al Jazeera channel to broadcast the million mars live. The anti-government demonstrators are as usual also tonight demonstrating in Bardo, as they have been doing for a week now.