Only days prior to the 23 October elections for a national constituent assembly, Tunisia continues to be an embattled and profoundly polarized terrain. Since the ouster of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in January, peaceful and less than peaceful demonstrations and sit-ins have routinely taken place throughout the country, particularly in the capital, Tunis. The most memorable of these remains the second sit-in protest in the Qasbah Government Square (Feb. 20th to March 3rd), which led to the resignation of Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi and his replacement by appointment of Béji Caïd Essebsi on 27 February 2011.
It may go down as one of the bitter ironies of Tunisian history that a revolutionary uprising accomplished primarily by youth resulted in an interim government headed by an 85-year-old veteran who served in various posts under both Habib Bourguiba and Ben Ali. Indeed, in an interview on the eve of his recent visit to Washington, D.C., Essebsi alluded that he might still be in function after the much anticipated elections this coming Sunday. Not unlike Bourguiba, his idol and former president whom in 1974 proclaimed himself president for life, Essebsi appears to be entertaining ambitions of eternal premiership.
This article is now featured in Jadaliyya`s edited volume entitled Dawn of the Arab Uprisings: End of An Old Order? (Pluto Press, 2012). The volume documents the first six months of the Arab uprisings, explaining the backgrounds and trajectories of these popular movements. It also archives the range of responses that emanated from activists, scholars, and analysts as they sought to make sense of the rapidly unfolding events. Click here to access the full article by ordering your copy of Dawn of the Arab Uprisings from Amazon, or use the link below to purchase from the publisher.