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Mohamed Al-Ghannouchi: The Secret of staying in power

26 Jan 2011 - 8:40

Islam Times - The Tunisian Prime Minister since 1999, Mohamed Al-Ghannouchi, is undertaking the ‘reformulation’ of the state after the popular revolution that overthrew its president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali and forced him to flee from Tunisia...

By Ziad Abo shawish

Al-Ghannouchi did not need to be mandated by the President of Parliament to take over as a Prime Minister of the desired Government of National Unity. He took command of the country immediately after the departure of Ben Ali and assigned himself a president based upon Article 56 of the current Tunisian constitution. Yet, he retreated because of the opposition’s popular and partisan protests. The opposition believes that the situation in Tunisia requires implementing Article 57 on a temporary basis until reviewing the Constitution, which according to them was set in favor of the ruling party, if not in favor of the ruling individual.

Work was carried out based upon the said Article, and the head of Parliament, Mr. Fouad Mebazaa, led the state until holding the presidential elections within sixty days i.e. after filling the vacancy in the office of President as provided in Article 57. Mebazaa was concerned about the vacant offices in power and government, and that is why he assigned Mohamed Al-Ghannouchi to head the next government. Al-Ghannouchi has suggested that the Government be a government of national unity that does not exclude anyone. Therefore, what is the secret of this assignment and what are the credits enabling Al-Ghannouchi to play this critical and substantial role, instead of being overthrown and detained because of his long association with Ben Ali in managing the affairs of the country and people!

Before directly answering this logical question, we must first summarize Al-Ghanouchi’s life and his relationship with the political action and governance since the independence in 1956.

He was born in the city of Sousse in 1941, he is seventy years old, and he has spent most of his life working in the political and economic fields. He holds a university degree in Political Science and Economics from the University of Tunisia. He served as the Director General of Planning in the country in 1975. When Ben Ali took control of the government after his predecessor, Habib Bourguiba, in a bloodless coup in 1987, he was appointed Minister of state for planning. Then, he held several ministerial posts including Economy and Finance until he was appointed as a prime minister in 1999, and is still.

Although his economic ability was a reason for the prominent economic achievements, yet it soon became deteriorated and empty by the hands of the President, his family, and his inner surrounding. This does not absolve Al-Ghannouchi from the responsibility for the failure of his economic plan and/or from the corruption that was spread in the corridors of the government and the rulers. He was also responsible for prolonging the dictator regime when he accepted to be the vice-chairman of the party and continued to defend the regime until the last moment before riding the wave and taking the initiative to talk about the manifestations of corruption and the need to review and reform. Thus, this man has great flexibility in addition to his abilities on the economic level to gain the personal trust of people.

Now, despite the fact that he bears the direct responsibility after the former president for all what happened and is happening in Tunisia including firing on the demonstrators, and killing and injuring a large number among them, what is keeping him so far outside the prison? What is keeping him in the state’s first responsible position, and most importantly, being entrusted with the conservation of the Revolution’s achievements through naming the members of the transitional Government of National Unity and the parties are dealing with him based on this background?

Both the scientific logic and intellect say that Mr. Al-Ghannouchi cannot stay having this significance without having distinct elements and relationships. Those elements are related to his capabilities and possibilities and his personal prestige among his peers, and are not only related to the economic or technical aspect.

Second, he must be having special relationship with the Army Command and the General Staff in particular. Without this relationship, he could not stay in power for one day or appear on the Tunisian official TV to speak as a current prime minister.

Third, the Tunisians did not yet have a consensus national figure to hold the reins of the transitional phase, and this was an important reason for the decline of the voices calling for his departure like the fugitive president.

Fourth, his name was not mentioned in any known political crime, and he do not have personal opponents asking for their rights on this regard.

The fifth and final reason is attributed to the lack of a unified leadership of the Tunisian uprising or a real influence in the military establishment and public security. Therefore, the tool that is supposed to eliminate his presence is not available until now. Additionally, he is continuing what he already started i.e. admitting that there are errors and corruption in the government and that they must be removed by starting to change at the level of the security institutions that are targeted by the audiences. Based upon this, the former Interior Minister, the commander of the Presidential Guard, and other followers of the ousted president were arrested.

The question that would come to the minds of those observing the events taking place in the Tunisian arena is about the possibility of staying for a long period in power.

Yet, answering this question needs accurate information regarding the composition of the opposition parties as well as the topography of the ruling party and its allies. Most importantly, finding out what is going on inside the military and intelligence establishments.

Although we do not know enough about the required information, but we can expect the current situation, including whether or not Al-Ghannouchi is going to stay heading the Tunisian government, a temporary or permanent one.

It is likely that Al-Ghannouchi will leave the arena voluntarily or by force, and this will not take a long time. When the circle of political maturity, which was created by the uprising, be completed, then its first decision would be forcing Al-Ghannouchi out of the department of decision-making in the country. Until that moment, the revolution should avoid repeating what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan, or even in Iran. It should avoid preventing national and active forces from participating in power. In fact, its duty is to start by its logos to entrench the principle of freedom of opinion and expression, and to give equal opportunities for all on the basis of respecting the law and justice, and disseminating the values of tolerance and forgiveness in the Tunisian homeland and society.
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