The long road ahead for Tunisia's transformation

08:53, February 16, 2011      

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One month after former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's regime collapsed and the ruling RCD party was suspended. Tunisians still have no time to celebrate their victory. After enjoying a brief whiff of freedom, most of Tunisians aware that there has still a long way to go to fulfill their goals.

As a momentous event in the Arab world, the mass protests in the north African country has stirred the downfall of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. However, a month after Ben Ali left the country, Tunisians have more and more concerned the security situation in the wake of massive strikes of the country's policemen, and the former presidential guards who are still loyal to the former regime, while the army is safeguarding most parts of the country.

The Tunisian authorities announced on Tuesday that the curfew has been lifted after one month, however the state of emergency is maintained. Moreover, the escape of some 11,000 prisoners from the country's jails during the unrest, has triggered widespread fears of attacks by gangs of robbers, which seriously dents the country' s image as one of the safest countries in the Arab world.

Among 5,000 and 8,000 Tunisian youths recently fled to the Italian island of Lampedusa, 135 km from Tunisian mainland, sparking one of Italy's most serious immigration crisis since the wave of Albanian refugees that invaded Italy a few years ago. Two thirds of Tunisia's unemployed population are under 30 years old, the immigration crisis therefore could turn into one of the major issues facing both Tunisia and European countries.

The political scene in the country, which the former president had occupied power by himself for 23 years, is in limbo. Although some 35 parties have registered for the elections to be held within six months, and more parties are expected to appeal, ironically, a recent poll shows that Tunisians are only aware of three main parties, including the former ruling RCD, the Islamist Ennahdha or the Renaissance Party, and the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP).

The country's fragile caretaker government is busy not only on running the country's affairs, but also on sustaining the falling economy. The damage due to the latest violence is estimated at about 5 billion U.S. dollars. The tourism revenue, the country's main income decrease by 40 percent in January compared with the same period last year.

The current power vacuum also result in lawlessness in daily life. Some people begin to rope off municipal land and engage in illegal building of houses and shops. The capital's main road, including the Avenue Bourguiba is overwhelmed with street peddlers selling from cheap perfume to glassware and sandwiches.

The European Union has already pledged 258 million Euros in aid to Tunisia and the African Bank will commit another 500,000 Euros, France, Britain and Germany, have offered to help the country in its slow and painful transition to democracy. However, ultimately it is up to Tunisians to shape their own future.

Source: Xinhua

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