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Politics 2013-02-07

Chokri Belaid slaying spurs Tunisia government change

By Monia Ghanmi for Magharebia in Tunis - 07/02/13

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Outrage over the killing of Tunisian opposition leader Chokri Belaid led Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali to dissolve the government on Wednesday (February 6th).

After Belaid – an outspoken critic of the ruling Islamist Ennahda party – was shot dead outside his Tunis home on Wednesday, thousands of demonstrators in several cities took to the streets. Hours later, Jebali said he would form a new, non-partisan administration.

"I have decided to form a government of competent nationals without political affiliation, which will have a mandate limited to managing the affairs of the country until elections are held in the shortest possible time," he said.

Ennahda has not yet issued an official statement, nor has party leader Rachid Ghannouchi reacted to Jebali's speech.

Despite the premier's televised pledge, protests continued Thursday. The governorate of Siliana launched a general strike and lawyers and judges across the country called a two-day walkout, AFP reported.

The main trade union (UGTT) also called a general strike on Friday to coincide with the funeral of Belaid.

The spontaneous protests that erupted nationwide after the Unified Democratic Patriots Party (PPDU) chief's murder have raised fears of renewed social upheaval.

Police used tear gas to disperse the thousands of demonstrators who gathered Wednesday on Habib Bourguiba Avenue in central Tunis. One policeman was killed after being hit by rocks.

Protestors in Mezzouna, Gafsa and Kef also torched and ransacked Ennahda party offices.

Speaking from Paris, Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki urged Tunisians to "beware the dangers of strife".

"We will continue to work to expose the enemies of revolution," he said. "Their attempts to derail the democratic transition will fail."

Constituent Assembly Chairman Mustapha Ben Jaafar also urged Tunisians to exercise self-control and engage in dialogue. Those who planned the assassination of Belaid planned to assassinate Tunisia and its democratic experiment, he said.

Belaid was known for his fierce opposition to the Ben Ali regime and the current Ennahda-led government. In a TV interview on the eve of his assassination, Belaid denounced what he called "attempts to dismantle the state and the creation of militias to terrorise citizens and drag the country into a spiral of violence".

Bessma Khalfaoui, Belaid's wife, who joined the demonstrators on Wednesday, said that her husband's killing was a blow to Tunisia, its opposition and its progressive democratic course.

Popular Front spokesman Hamma Hammami agreed that Belaid's assassination was an attempt to drag the country into chaos and prevent it from building a democratic republic.

But if the goal of Belaid's killers was to create civil strife, said law professor Kais Said, the best response would be to keep them from succeeding.

"All parties must show a sense of responsibility and calm down to find out what has really happened," he said. "National dialogue must be accelerated and consensus reached."

Tunisian citizens also voiced fears that the killing would heighten tensions between secularists and Islamists.

"This assassination may further disrupt the political atmosphere and bring about the country's entry into a war between the opposing factions," teacher Hafidha Mghirbi said. "This is what we don't wish to see."

For day labourer Abdessatar Khalfaoui, the outlook is grim. "The celebrations that I saw today on some Islamic pages on social networking websites for Chokri Belaid's assassination don't bode well," he told Magharebia.

"It shows that we're about to witness a dangerous political escalation that could lead to a bloodbath."

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  1. Anonymous thumb

    Indigné 2013-2-14

    @تونسي.I won't use your obscene language.People without arguments and unable to discuss resort to insults and behave agressively. Your words reveal the poor education you got. Therefore I don't consider you totally responsible for your lack of courtesy. How could you guess that I am a salafist and other bad things? Are you an internet Nostradamus? Poor people in Tunisia are being manipulated by the political mafia who don't accept democracy and dream of their former privileges. The murder of Chokri Belaid is being exploited in a shameful way. Belaid thanks his popularity to the ex-bootlickers of Ben Ali in the media who turned their jackets against their former boss after the revolution but dream of revenge. Belaid's party got only 1 seat out of 217 in the elections. Himself got none. But he became the favorite guest of the mafia on radio and tv because he was a big mouth and a bad loser. He was a marxist extremist who hated religion and used the many opportunities offered to him on air to repeatedly insult Ennahdha who won 90 seats, that's 42% of the seats. He forgot that in civilized nations losers congratulate the winners. He called the Syrian revolution an Israeli-American conspiration. The media used all means to recruit thousands of people to his funeral, making them believe Belaid was a moslim martyr. You could hear loud religious chants in the graveyard and Coran recitals for the rest of his soul. I've never heard of a trostskyst martyr. Even Trotsky who also was murdered wasn't upgrated that way. What a ridiculous circus! What a shame also all those looters who walked in the funeral and went on rampage. Some 400 were arrested by the police and 1 policeman who tried to protect a store was savagely killed.His head was crushed by a stone. May he rest in peace.


  2. Anonymous thumb

    تونسي 2013-2-12

    To Indigné who posted 5 days ago, you are lying when you say "To avoid any misunderstanding here, the assassination of Chokri Belaid is an unforgivable crime. There can be no mitigating circumstance for murderers. But, this assassination is being used." You are a liar and hypocrite. Chokri Belaid is a faithful patriot who was looking for a solution to rescue Tunisia and its people. As for you Brotherhood, Salafists and ignoramuses, your only goal is power and authoritarianism. Anyway, you have never contributed to the revolution. You have just seized it through the election game after fooling people with the fake deceitful religious propaganda.


  3. Anonymous thumb

    Le vrai 2013-2-10

    The government did not resign, so you should withdraw this false information; otherwise; your site will no longer be credible.


  4. Anonymous thumb

    البوطيبي امحند مدير الموقع 2013-2-9

    We thank Magharebia staff for all your fair articles. Bouteybi Mhand from Morocco, Nador.


  5. Anonymous thumb

    laribi 2013-2-8

    In order to make the revolution win, we needed to completely destroy the building of the Interior Ministry because that was the real brains behind the dictatorship and the evil is located in its evil construction and cellars. The French Revolution achieved its revolution by storming the Bastille.


  6. Anonymous thumb

    Indigné 2013-2-8

    To avoid any misunderstanding here, the assassination of Chokri Belaid is an unforgiveable crime. There can be no mitigating circumstance for murderers. But, this assassination is being used for vile political reasons. Chokri Belaid was presented by some Tunisian media that became experts in the freedom of the press after the flight of Ben Ali, as being a charismatic hero. But, why wasn’t Chokri Belaid elected when he ran in the first free elections in the history of Tunisia on November 23rd, 2011? Was it because of his charisma? The truth is that the people who want to create chaos here have found a Trojan horse in him after his death. I don’t think that his Trotskyist ideas about class warfare in Tunisia will serve the country. Nor do I think that his ferocious attacks on Ennahda the day after he lost the elections were indicative of good sportsmanship. His aims were obstructionist to prevent the government from working. Chokri Belaid played with fire in a field loaded with dynamite. I hope that the class warfare that he called for during his life does not come to pass after his death, but I do fear that his death will be used for the return of criminals to power, which will eventually trigger another revolution. Meanwhile, a police officer who was trying to protect a shop against thieves was killed in an atrocious way, a rock crushing his skull. But, no one seems to be moved by this and no one is protesting to demand that the perpetrators be found and severely punished. It’s the return of double standards as was the case under Ben Ali. With a 31% illiteracy rate, Tunisia might catch fire.