JF Briefing February 2015

[divider]

Domestic Developments

[divider]

EssidMedia headlines in recent days have focused on the spectre of terrorism once again, looking at the re-emergence of the Uqba ben Nafe brigades. Analysis has also focused on the work of the new government and the key dossiers discussed at last week’s Cabinet Meeting – mainly security, consumer prices, and economic development. The continuing unrest in the south has also occupied headlines,

[divider]

Dhiba Investigation Committee

dhehiba manifestThe Independent Investigation Commission into the Dhiba Events has issued its preliminary conclusions. The commission found that the police had used excessive force and was unjustified in resorting to the use of live ammunition, in violation of the law, which only allows recourse to live ammunition in the case of danger or immediate threat. The young protester who was killed, Saber Meliene, was found to have been shot in the back. Nejib Beghouri, a member of the commission, criticised authorities for the lack of transparency in responding to events and their refusal to recognize the social nature of the protesters’ demands.

The Essid government was forced to reverse the border tax after widespread protests in Dhiba and other border towns. The episode highlights the sensitive issue of the informal economy, which according to estimates represents 40% of economic activity in Tunisia. It also raises questions over the government’s room for manoeuvre in introducing urgent economic reforms, including subsidy cuts. The Jemaa government was also forced to backtrack on various measures last year including a vehicle tax and a proposed rise in the retirement age due to protests.

[divider]

Kasserine Attack

Tunisian-armyTerrorism has struck again in Tunisia, occupying headlines and raising concerns over the rise of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM), whose Uqba bin Nafi Battalion claimed responsibility for the attack. The attack left four members of the National Guard dead. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) said it was part of a “series of revenge operations for the vulnerable Muslims, and on top of them the female martyrs of the epic of Oued Ellil”, referring to a security raid on militants in a home in Oued Ellil, Tunis in October last year.

Tunisian officials have claimed that the battalion is made up of “veterans of the Islamist rebellion in northern Mali with links to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM),” including Algerians and Libyans. Following the attack security unions have made renewed calls for a tougher terrorism law than the one currently proposed and for extending police powers.

[divider]

Yassine Ayari Verdict to be Issued

yassineA military appeals court is due to rule on 3 March on Yassine Ayari’s appeal against his one-year prison sentence. The 33 year-old blogger was sentenced by a military court in February after publishing blogs criticising the military and the Minister of Defence. The case has been criticised by rights groups, including Human Rights Watchand Amnesty International. Ayari remains in prison, and went on hunger strike last month to protest restrictions on his visitation and correspondence rights.

[divider]

Tunisia’s Jewish Community Weathers Changes

djerba jewsThe Wall Street Journal has a feature piece on Tunisia’s small but vibrant Jewish community on the island of Djerba. The article explores two women’s struggle to set up a school for girls and to broaden women’s opportunities.

[divider]

Eye on the Assembly

[divider]

Assembly to Prioritise 24 Urgent Draft Laws

ARPThe Assemblyof People’s Representatives (ARP) has announced that it will be focusing on 24 urgent draft laws, including draft laws against terrorism and money laundering, on protection of security forces and their families, public-private partnerships (PPP), market competition and pricing, ratification of international financial agreements with countries and international institutions, restructuring of public banks, protection of hygiene in municipalities, protection of agricultural lands and cleaning up the Bizerte lake. The ARP will also prioritise the draft law on the new Supreme Judicial Council, which must be in place by 15 April under the Constitution. The list was agreed between the Speaker of the ARP, Mohammed Ennaceur, and the Prime Minister Habib Essid.

The Speaker also announced the new composition of the ARP Bureau, containing deputies from Nidaa Tounes, Ennandha, UPL, Social-Democratic Bloc and the Popular Front.

[divider]

Committee Chairs – Row Breaks Out

ARP.2A row broke out among opposition parties last week over chairing of the Finance, Planning and Development Committee. The Popular Front held up the plenary session on Friday 20th February, declaring its rejection of the appointment of Iyed Dahmani, of the Social Democratic Alliance, as Chair of the Committee. The Constitution states that the Committee’s chair must be a member of the opposition – however, the internal rules of the Assembly did not specify how the 33 opposition deputies in the Assembly should reach agreement on a candidate, causing confusion and conflict among the opposition.

The opposition had held a vote in which Iyed Dahmani of the Social Democratic Alliance was voted Committee Chair. However, the Popular Front, who hold 15 seats out of 33 opposition seats and who had been outnumbered in the vote, argued that chairmanship of the committee should be given automatically to the biggest opposition bloc, and not by majority vote.

After negotiations among the opposition and with the ARP Bureau, two proposals were put to the plenary on 27 February – the first to grant chairmanship of the committee automatically to the biggest opposition bloc, and the second to grant chairmanship to the candidate supported by the majority of opposition members. The first proposal was adopted with 109 votes for, as opposed to only 3 for the second. Deputies of the Democratic Current and the Congress for the Republic boycotted the vote, described as a « farce » by MP Samia Abbou.

[divider]

Political Party News

[divider]

Nidaa TounessOn the political party front, Nidaa Tounes is continuing preparation for its first party congress, with internal reforms promised in order to clarify the party’s decision-making structures. Mohammed Ennaceur presided over a meeting of party leaders to discuss the election of a political bureau or national coordination committee to oversee preparation of the congress. Khaled Shawkat, a Nidaa leader, declared in an interview with Assabah newspaper that elections for a political bureau would take place at the end of this week. This bureau will act as a strategic planning body and provide leadership for the party until the party congress to be held by September 2015 at the latest.

[divider]

Meanwhile Ennahdha Party has been prennahdhaeparing its tenth party congress to be held in July. The party held a conference titled “Ennahdha Party: Intellectual and Political Horizons” to prepare for the congress, with the notable attendance of Hammadi Jebali, who resigned from the party in December 2014.

[divider]

Loumi TunisFaouzi Elloumi, a leading Nidaa Tounes official, has called for greater national unity and dialogue in an op-ed, in which he described the disappointment of some Destouriens at the lack of attention given to consensus-building by the political class, and especially those in power. He called for the ruling political parties to use their majority in parliament and government to pass legislation and launch initiatives that open the door towards a genuine process of national unity, reconciliation and understanding. He criticised the prosecution of some former officials of the old regime who “served the state with sincerity” and calls for an end to such prosecutions.

The Popular Front has complained of its exclusion from government, with the head of its Assembly bloc, Ahmed Seddik, arguing that this was on the orders of the International Monetary Fund.

[divider]

International Analysis

[divider]

Winning By Losing, Tunisia Style

Bruno KaufmanBruno Kaufmann, board member of Democracy International, looks at Tunisia’s success at moving towards participatory democracy, identifying its “patient and humble route of finding compromises when it comes to the new rules of the game” and “cohesive society, with strong civil society organizations” as the bedrock of democracy.

http://www.democracy-international.org/winning-losing-tunisia-style

[divider]

Why Arab Spring made life better in Tunisia, failed everywhere else

Ellen McLarneyEllen McLarney, assistant professor of Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies at Duke University, analyses Ennahdha Party’s role in the democratic transition in Tunisia.

[divider]

Tunisia: A democracy and a police state?

Police tunisienneOmar Belhaj Salah, in an opinion piece for Middle East Eye, argues that Tunisia is the only Arab Spring country that has “managed to find its way through transition with minimal cost and significant achievements” it continues to suffer from a police apparatus that has changed little since the revolution. Salah analyses the role of consensus-building in overcoming a “clash-inducing narrative evoking dualism between the Ancien Regime and the Revolutionaries”.

However, Salah argues that the state police apparatus has changed little in the last four years, continuing to “manifest a built-in impulse for tyranny through daily brutalisation and gratuitous show of force against the citizenry”. Salah concludes that democratisation in Tunisia “is still delicate enough to be reversed…hopes for a credible and lasting democratic system could fade away if the outcome is nothing more than an illiberal “electoral democracy” in which institutions remain unreformed and freedom of expression is rescinded.”

[divider]

Tunisia: Those the Jasmine Revolution Forgot

RevolutionPhotographer Nicholas Linn captures the daily struggle of Tunisia’s underclass by following Mansour Hebchi, a squatter in a decaying Ottoman palace who forages for bottles to earn a livelihood for his family.

[divider]

Events

[divider]

tunis_economic_forum2015The first edition of the Tunis Economic Forum is taking place on March 12, organised by the Arab Institute of Business Managers (IACE). The forum to discuss “Implementation of Reforms: emergencies and methods” will bring together Tunisian decision makers, international experts and representatives of international financial institutions.

 [divider]

WSFThe World Social Forum is taking place in Tunis this year for the second time in a row following its success in 2013.
https://fsm2015.org/en

[divider]

Democracy InternationalGlobal Forum on Modern Direct Democracy to be held in Tunis in May 2015 https://www.democracy-international.org/global-forum-modern-direct-democracy-tunis

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.