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Publish Date : Saturday 10 December 2011 - 10:02
Tunisia still grapples with past legacy
Tunisia still grapples with past legacy
Islam Times - In October, the Tunisia's Islamic Ennahda party won 89 seats of a 217-strong constituent assembly in the first democratic elections after the ouster of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
The constituent assembly is expected to draw up a new constitution and appoint the caretaker government until the country calls a general election.

Above all, it must address the economy, unemployment and people's demands for jobs

Press TV has conducted an interview with Khalil Amiri, political analyst, to share his opinion on this issue.

Following is a transcript of the interview:

Press TV: When you look from here in the UK, what is happening in Tunisia, are you excited, are you full of hope or you are a little alarmed that the excitement of October the 23rd is going to turn to something a little more threatening?

Amiri: Looking from here it is a lot of excitement and pride in the moment. This is the first assembly that is really elected in thousands of years and we see in the assembly all the different political persuasions, in society represented.

So it is a promising moment and there are of course; there is some anxiety about some of the signs that are appearing which I think come from really the legacy of dictatorship for six decades.

There is lack trust a little bit. I mean after all, in representative democracy once you elect your representatives, you accept that they will actually debate inside the assembly these issues and sort them out.

But you see a lot of people which is a healthy sign, demonstrating on both sides, on many sides, in front of the assembly and they are worried that their representatives may not actually do take the right kind of positions in some critical because they are very passionate about these issues and it is a healthy sign.

Press TV: Yes, but there are 217 members in the new assembly, 40 percent of which from the Ennahda party and then of course we got the coalition. Do you think that they are ready to listen to people outside? Because of course here in this country or in the US or elsewhere, when there are people outside demonstrating, lawmakers, representatives, MPs always say yes, we hear the people outside, we have to be sober here inside. What do you think?

Amiri: I think in Tunisia is actually slightly different and that is why I feel some anxiety about this process right now. Because the people inside the assembly, unlike people here in Britain or in kind of mature established democracies understand that they actually have an issue and they do listen a lot actually to the street and that's; maybe worried, maybe a little bit they react to sometimes the biggest demonstration happening in the street.

And the reason is that, number one, there are elections coming in near, so they have their sight on the elections that are coming and also they know that the country is a little bit fragile in terms of security and stability and therefore there are a lot of popular power in the street and they are very responsive in fact to popular demands.

So I do not think they are, in fact as you know there are debates in the media, in different civil society associations in the streets, through demonstrations that are going on, about questions that are being debated inside the assembly and the representatives are actually listening and bringing back some of these positions into the assembly.

So they are not disconnected at all in fact, but the question that I am a little bit worried about maybe them not having enough calm and peace, sober enough to actually think strategically.

Press TV: I am just wondering as well Dr. Amiri, who Tunisia's friends are? We know that in Tunis later this week there is going to be a UN conference on democratic changes in the Arab world.

When Tunisia looks across the border, to Libya for example, where there had been problems on the border post in the past few days, does it see a friend?

When it looks across the Mediterranean, to Italy when it looks across the EU or to the West, to United Sates does it see friends? Where are Tunisia's friends and who are going to work with Tunisia?

Amiri: I think the new coalition government that is going to be announced, looking at their programs, electoral programs before and during the elections, they have been promoting a very diversified view to trade relations, to economic cooperation.

Clearly we are very close to Europe so that is going to be always an important just by geography and proximity and history, an important trade partner but there is a strong realization that we need to diversify towards emerging countries like Turkey, Brazil, Latin America and also use our strategic depth into Africa and the region.

Press TV: Do you think that for a long time Tunisia has over relied on the tourist euro or pound or dollar?

Amiri: I think if you need the programs for instance of another party which is the leading party in the assembly, or the Congress for the Republicans, you see a clear conviction that we have for too long relied on only one source and one geography and that is even in terms of economic policies not very good, because when there is crisis in Europe we tend to suffer a lot.

So there is a will to basically diversify as I said to emerging markets, promote the relationships with the African continent, with the Arab world. We are lucky actually that there has been a revolution that succeeded in Libya, because without it, it could have been quite complicated because traditionally we had very strong relationships with Libya.

And now with the revolutions there and I think in Egypt, Tunisia sees a friend, and strategically they see certainly a friend specially with the exceptional experience again during the Libyan revolution with Tunisians despite being; just have heard the revolution, opening their houses and welcoming their Libyans neighbors.

There is a strong base for strong cooperation and I think in terms of, as you know, investors really look for lack of corruption, transparency and stability and I think there is a strong will to actually tackle these problems to promote investments in the country, to solve the problems of unemployment and lack of jobs.
Story Code: 121048