Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tunisia: 24 Hours, Three Presidents

Tunisia is a little wedge of a country between Libya and Algeria.

It's been quite a stable country, by some standards: the same fellow's been President of Tunisia since 1987. Somehow, Zine el Abidine Ben Ali kept winning elections.

That was then, this is now. The former Tunisian president is believed to be hightailing it for Saudi Arabia, and the country's on its third president so far. Since this morning.
"...Ben Ali's longtime ally, Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi, stepped in briefly with a vague assumption of power that left open the possibility that Ben Ali could return. But on Saturday, the head of the Constitutional Council declared the president's departure permanent and gave Fouad Mebazaa, leader of the lower house of parliament, 60 days to organize new elections...."

"...In his first televised address, the interim president asked the prime minister to form a '"national unity government in the country's best interests' in which all political parties will be consulted 'without exception nor exclusion.'

"The move was one of reconciliation, but it was not clear how far the 77-year-old Mebazaa, who has been part of Tunisia's ruling class for decades, would truly go to work with the opposition. It was also unclear who would emerge as the country's top political leaders, since Ben Ali utterly dominated politics, placing allies in power and sending opponents into jail or exile...."
(Associated Press, via
Quite a few people have been killed since the excitement started today. There's been a major fire, and one prison released inmates - a humanitarian gesture, I take it, since that's where the fire was. 42 prisoners had been killed by the time the 1,000-odd others were released.

One lesson of what's happening in Tunisia may be that there are worse things than America's traditional lawsuits to decide who won an election.

Another is, I think, that this isn't the '50s any more. Or the '60s.

An article/op-ed in Wired (January 14, 2011) suggested that we're looking at what happens when Information Age technology and social structures wash over a country that's run by folks whose power depends at least in part of controlling what their subjects know.

I've discussed information gatekeepers before. In America, they've been the editors of east coast newspapers, book and magazine publishers, executives of media companies, professors, and the rest of the folks who run the education establishment.

And that's not quite another topic.

Related posts:News and views:Background:
  • "Tunisia"
    World Factbook, CIA (last updated January 12, 2011)

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.