The key players in Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution
Tunisia's 'Jasmine Revolution' is still under way, with fighting in the capital today. Here are some of the key players driving events.
The enraged Tunisians who took to the streets in December in revulsion at their corrupt, autocratic regime achieved their primary goal: The removal from power of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. But what sort of new order will emerge in the North African country, or whether it will be much different from the old one, has not yet been determined.Skip to next paragraph
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Here's a list of some of the key individuals and actors who will shape the future:
Former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali: The ousted president is now in Saudi Arabia, after the plane he fled on appeared to have been denied permission to land in Malta and Paris, France being Tunisia's former ruler. Born in 1937, he followed a well-trod path to power for post-colonial rulers, joining the anti-French Neo Destour movement while in high school. He also received military training at St. Cyr, France's most prestigious military school. After Tunisia gained independence in 1956, he joined the nation's military, with a specialization in internal security and intelligence. In 1985, he was named Interior minister, making him chief enforcer and suppressor of internal dissent for Tunisia's first president, Habib Bourguiba. In 1987, he led a sweeping crackdown against Islamists for Bourguiba, and was named prime minister. Ben Ali soon turned on Bourguiba, and when doctors declared Bourguiba mentally unfit to rule, stepped in as president.
Though it's hard to imagine Ben Ali returning to power, he amassed vast wealth and still has many loyalists inside the country. Monitor Correspondent Kristen Chick reports from Tunis that elements of the police appear still loyal to Ben Ali. There were fierce clashes between the Army, which is backing the forces of change for the moment, and members of Ben Ali's Presidential Guard, who were driven from the presidential palace Sunday.
The corruption of the regime was widely noted. As the US Embassy in Tunis put it in a cable in 2008 (released by WikiLeaks): "According to Transparency International's annual survey and Embassy contacts' observations, corruption in Tunisia is getting worse. Whether it's cash, services, land, property, or yes, even your yacht, President Ben Ali's family is rumored to covet it and reportedly gets what it wants."
Acting President Fouad Mebazaa: Parliamentary Speaker Mebazaa was named acting president on Saturday. A long-time member of Ben Ali's Constitutional Democratic Party (RCD) and a key supporter of the regime until recent events, he has promised fast elections and the creation of an interim government of "national unity" that will include members of Tunisia's political opposition, which have long been frozen out of meaningful political participation. Whether the opposition are in fact given a meaningful voice and Mr. Mebazaa shepherds a revision of electoral and political laws will demonstrate whether his promises are sincere.