News Analysis: Tunisian leaders should waste no time to fill gap between gov't, streets: Analysts (2)

19:29, January 25, 2011      

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Days after Tunisian's former boss fled to Saudi Arabia in a hurry, Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi went on state TV on Jan. 17 to unveil a list of an interim government, with several opposition figures entering the cabinet, while foreign, interior and defense ministers still kept their jobs.

The new-born national unity cabinet, with the old guards still holding key positions, was too small a progress for a people that experienced dramatic change as the 23 years iron-fisted rule of the president ended. Thousands of Tunisians, joined even by the police, flooded the street everyday to protest against the government's make-up and demanding the banning of the ruling RCD, saying they are not afraid and will not stop until all ministers who had served Ben Ali out of the line-up.

With a presidential election coming within 60 days and a deteriorating economic situation, Tunisian leaders must race against time to quell the anger in the streets, Grami said, advising them to show good will to regain people's trust and adopting specific political and economic measures.

Amel noted the prime mintier and the caretaker government had made mistakes in their first attempts to stabilize the country.

She cited the prime minister had spoken to the fled leader via phone, used a strong tone when talking about casualties in protests, while failing to mention they died for the sake of their country, who also allowed the security forces to engage tear gas to disperse demonstration, which aroused people's suspicion of the new government's breaking up with the past.

However, they have been correcting their mistakes, the book writer said, noting the interim government has wasted no time to declare an unusual three days of national morning, a symbol of recognition that those killed in the popular protests sacrificed their lives for the sake of Tunisia.

Meanwhile, the authorities have been mulling laws for a general amnesty for political prisoners and the recognition of banned political groups under the rule of Ben Ali. The moves were described by Grami as a first sign of trying to reconcile the government with the people, saying the amnesty and the recognition are the foundation for a free political environment which invites everybody to participate in the country's politics.

Still, Amel suggested bolder moves, including amending the constitution, which has served as a tool for the ex-president's clinging into power, making more room for other players in the government to include more ministers from the opposition and the civil society, stepping up investigations into corruptions and abuses, and preparing for democratic elections.

These must be done very quickly to prevent further unrest, Grami said.

As for economy, Nabil Cherni stressed the decline in investment rate in Tunisia, cautioning the further rising of the unemployment rate which contributed to weeks of violence, in face of less investment and commercial activities.

"We must do something to convince the investors that without the intimation of the privileged few, Tunisia now is more open, where investors can enjoy more chances to succeed than in the past, " Nabil said.
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