After twenty three years of rule, Tunisian President Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali has fled the country and the army is trying to assume control. Protests, which began four weeks ago, continue. The current Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi has claimed power. It is unclear if any representative of the ruling party, Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD), will satisfy the demands of the protestors.
Other conciliation efforts have failed. In the past day, President Ben Ali, relinquished his control over the press, and allowed Tunisian access to all internet news providers. He also offered to slash food prices, and increase jobs. He fired the interior minister and then disbanded the entire government and offered to hold elections in six months. However, on Friday morning, the protests continued. Crowds which had been primarily composed of young men expanded to include large numbers of women.
Some are speculating that President Ben Ali may have left for Libya or France, given his ties to these countries.
Tunisia is not the only Arab country to face protests in the past few weeks. The Algerian public has also taken to the street demanding jobs and lower food prices. Today, hundreds of Jordanian demonstrators in Karak are also protesting food prices.
US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, warned Arab leaders to allow for greater political participation, “People have grown tired of corrupt institutions and a stagnant political order. They are demanding reform to make their governments more effective, more responsive, and more open… It’s time to see civil society not as a threat but as a partner.”
Tunisian Prime Minister Ghannouchi is betting that the departure of Ben Ali will persuade the public. If it does not, options which keep the governmental structure intact will be limited. Ghannouchi is widely viewed as a close ally of Ben Ali. Ghannouchi is currently in talks with the opposition. Over fifty years of autocratic rule in Tunisia have left the country without a strong opposition party, so even an attempt at a “unity government” may not be enough. If the Tunisian public is not satisfied by the Prime Minister's new government, we may yet see a revolution.