Weariness with unfulfilled promises, deteriorating economic conditions and the rising threat of violence was rather visible on the day celebrating the second anniversary of the revolution. One sign of major failure on the part of the current political players has been their ability to feed nostalgia for the old regime. Today you can actually hear voices glorifying the old days of Ben Ali’s dictatorship.
The constituent assembly
It is true enough that the elected constituent assembly has proved to be a great waste of time and money. Tunisia held elections a year ago to pick 217 constituent assembly members to draft a constitution fulfilling the commitments made during the uprising to a robust and inclusive democracy. Today, the constitution remains incomplete with no accurate date for completion or elections in sight. A group of expert drafters, followed by a referendum, would have been a more efficient transition towards democracy. Instead, self-interest seems to be emerging as the prime motivator of government’s policy makers and the opposition alike. Fierce competition for political leadership surpasses any interest in the greater good.
The old bad guys are still with us
On March 9, 2011 Ben Ali’s Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) was finally dissolved by the Tunisian courts. Two years later, the identical policies pursued by the leaders of the (RCD) party are still endorsed and practiced by a good proportion of Tunisian politicians and their supporters. The old structure turns out to be still in place. Far from withdrawing from political life, the old elite has simply regrouped and they operate in two popular political parties in Tunisia: the Ennahda party (the ruling party) and Nida Tounes (led by former interim government Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi).
Corruption, oppression and intimidation of the opposition are still practiced. Post-austerity double standards appeared a few days ago when a Tunisian blogger named Olfa Riahi disclosed the scandal of Sheratongate. Rafik Abdesselem, Tunisia’s minister of foreign affairs, is accused of using taxpayers’ money to spend several nights at the fancy Sheraton hotel in Tunis that happens to be across the street from Mr Abdesselem’s office. The blogger provided copies of the bills. The minister denies the accusations and the leader of the Ennahda Party, Mr Ghannouchi, has suggested that anyone proven to have supplied false testimony should by rights receive 80 lashes under Islamic law.
Economic stagnation remains at the heart of the crisis, with the coalition government seemingly paralyzed in tackling development problems, especially in the interior regions. The current leadership promised quick solutions and all the post-election blessings of social justice, employment and development. Today, they are met with loud voices of “Dégage” (get out) whenever they leave their luxurious offices and TV studios to actually encounter people in the streets. The tourism sector, one of the pillars of the Tunisian economy, is still suffering not least from the violent actions of extremist groups.
But calling for the old days of Ben Ali is a painful sign that the revolution is taking the wrong path. The political leaders of the country should be held accountable for this. Since they have proved conclusively that at their core, that they are the cloned products of the police state of Ben Ali. Meanwhile, the majority of Tunisian people cling against hope to their bottom line: “things will not go back to the way they were”.