Friday, January 14, 2011

Tunisia: the Tipping Point?

View of Tunis, capital of Tunisia

Reports today from Tunisia highlight both the desperation of the ruling Ben Ali family, and the opportunity for mass popular action to usher in change.

A common pattern has been observable in the course of the protests and the official reaction to it in recent weeks.

First, the clampdown. In the case of the Tunisian protests, police action has been combined with efforts to shut down online dissent. A facebook page supportive of the protests has been targeted, for instance.
Second, the concessions. The President, faced with mounting pressure, agrees to step down from power in 2014 and to act against corruption (one of the key elements that sparked the initial protests). 

Thirdly, as the army and security forces appear to be no longer opposing the demonstrators, and as a  crowd of 6,000 gathers in Tunis itself, we can expect to see the (final?) stage - resignation of the president and the removal of his corrupt family from public life.

The extent to which this is done in a prompt and orderly fashion will largely determine whether the existing government structures are able to cope with these changes and facilitate the reforms necessary.

Failure to do this may usher in a fourth and more problematic phase: a more general breakdown in law and order and government, with much greater potential for bloodshed and upheaval.

My earlier posts on the Tunisia demonstrations and its background can be found here

The following video, in which gunfire can be heard, was taken on January 11th in Sidi Bouzid and uploaded by Tunisian blog Nawaat

BoinbBoing, meanwhile, has a photo essay from today on its site here

The following was uploaded today, January 14th.

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