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Tunisia: Don't trade freedom for security, warns former assembly president

A group of Tunisians stage a protest demanding that the names of those who lost their lives in mass public demonstrations on January 14, 2011 that overthrew Former President of Tunisia Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, be added to the list of martyrs during 10th anniversary of Tunisian Revolution in Tunis, Tunisia on January 14, 2021 [Yassine Gaidi / Anadolu Agency]
A group of Tunisians stage a protest demanding that the names of those who lost their lives in mass public demonstrations on January 14, 2011 that overthrew Former President of Tunisia Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, be added to the list of martyrs during 10th anniversary of Tunisian Revolution in Tunis, Tunisia on January 14, 2021 [Yassine Gaidi / Anadolu Agency]

A former president of the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) in Tunisia has warned fellow citizens not to trade freedom for security in the belief that things were "better in the past". Such a move, said Mostafa Ben Jafar, does not justify "falling into that trap."

Ben Jafar insisted that the freedoms enjoyed in Tunisia today are a result of sacrifices made by multiple generations. He made his comments in an interview with Arabi21.

"The popular protests that are taking place in Tunisia these days, led by the youth, are a reflection of a dire social situation, because the goals of the revolution and the challenges it was set to defy on the social and economic level led to what is happening now, which we condemn," he explained. "Nevertheless, this is an expression of anger from people living in very difficult conditions. Truth be told, all the circumstances on the social and economic levels that pushed the Tunisian people towards revolution have resurfaced, but what has changed is the general atmosphere."

The ex-official refused to accuse any political party of igniting these protests, in which most of the participants are young people between the ages of 15 and 25. Conspiracy theories about instigators have no limits, he pointed out.

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"This is a trap that we must avoid, although that does not mean that there are no forces with bad intentions for Tunisia who are unwilling to see the country's democratic journey succeed. Ultimately, the judiciary will have the final say."

What the revolution achieved in terms of political and human rights is very significant, Ben Jafar noted. He refused to be drawn on claims that the revolution is responsible for the prevailing political crisis.

"The political situation in Tunisia is unstable for well-known reasons, as the constitution was not respected properly, and stability and persistence has been missing in successive governments which had no alternatives to offer," he pointed out. "There is also the partisan system and electoral law to consider, as it does not encourage parliamentary and government stability."

Any national dialogue, he hopes, will be serious and effective in addressing social and economic reforms, as well as reform of the electoral law and the regulation of political parties.

"We must also remember that the political system that was agreed upon in Tunisia is there to prevent any authority from monopolising power," Ben Jafar concluded, "This is a new reality. It is true that individual practices do not speed up the establishment of this democratic path nor provide a sound basis for it, but we are still at the beginning of the process."

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