Δευτέρα, 17 Ιανουαρίου 2011

The ghost of Tunisia is hovering over Maghreb and M East

Protestors from opposition parties and labor unions protest outside Jordanian Lower House during an anti-government demonstration in Amman, Jordan, on Jan. 16, 2011. Hundreds of Jordanians on Sunday staged a sit-in, calling for the resignation of the government and protesting rising prices in the country.   (Xinhua/Mohammad Abu Ghosh) (zw)
Protestors from opposition parties and labor unions protest outside Jordanian Lower House during an anti-government demonstration in Amman, Jordan, on Jan. 16, 2011. Hundreds of Jordanians on Sunday staged a sit-in, calling for the resignation of the government and protesting rising prices in the country. 
'Arab Autocrats Have Been Warned' by Tunisia
by Ahmad Khatib Ahmad Khatib – Sun Jan 16, 4:11 pm ET
AMMAN (AFP) – Governments across the Middle East anxiously watched developments in Tunisia on Sunday after the ouster of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, fearing the spread to their doorsteps of violence and popular revolt.

After 23 years of iron-fisted rule, the Tunisian president caved in to violent popular protests on Friday and fled to Saudi Arabia, becoming the first Arab leader to do so.

Administrations in the Middle East were cautious in their response to his toppling, but are increasingly uneasy about the situation as opposition groups seek to take advantage of the upheaval in the north African country.

Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit warned the West to stay out of Arab affairs, after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called this week on Arab leaders to work with their peoples for reforms.

Abul Gheit described as "nonsense" fears that a Tunisian-style popular revolt could spread to other Arab countries.

The world's largest pan-Islamic body, the Saudi-based Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said the strife in Tunisia was an "internal matter" while urging people to "protect public and private properties."

It expressed hope, however, that Tunisia would show "the solidarity and unity of its people and their aspirations for enhancing democracy and good governance."

The United Arab Emirates echoed the OIC's plea, urging Tunisians "to maintain national unity and to thwart any attempt to undermine" their country.

Ben Ali's ouster appeared to embolden disenchanted youths in Yemen, with about 1,000 students taking to the streets of the capital Sanaa, urging Arabs to rise up against their leaders.

Flanked by human rights activists, the students marched from Sanaa University's campus to the Tunisian embassy, calling for Arab peoples to wage a "revolution against their scared and deceitful leaders."

"Leave before you are toppled," read one banner, without naming Yemen's own President Ali Abdullah Saleh. "Peaceful and democratic change is our aim in building a new Yemen."

Syria's pro-government daily Al-Watan said the events in Tunisia were "a lesson that no Arab regime should ignore, especially those following Tunisia's political approach of relying on 'friends' to protect them."

"Arab leaders on sale to the West should learn form the Tunisian lesson. They should make Arab decisions according to what is favourable to the interest of the Arab people and not those of faraway countries," Al-Watan said.

In Jordan, the powerful Islamist movement urged Arab regimes to carry out genuine reforms leading to "renaissance."

"Tyranny is the mother of all evil in the Arab world," it warned.

"We have been suffering in Jordan the same way Tunisians have been suffering," Muslim Brotherhood chief Hammam Said told 3,000 demonstrators who held a sit-in outside parliament to protest government economic policies.

"We must put an end to oppression and restrictions on freedoms and people's will," he said.

Opposition MPs in Kuwait agreed.

"I salute the courage of the Tunisian people... All regimes that oppress their peoples and fight Arab and Islamic identity will meet the same fate," Islamist MP Waleed al-Tabtabai said.

Iran, which has good ties with the north African country, said it hoped "the Muslim Tunisian nation's demands are fulfilled through peaceful and non-violent means."

"We are worried about the situation in Tunisia," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said in Tehran.

For Israel, the dramatic events in Tunisia were a sign of regional political instability.

"The region in which we live is an unstable region... " said Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

"There can be changes in governments that we do not foresee today but will take place tomorrow." 

The fall of Tunisian President Ben Ali could have reverberations across a region dominated by autocratic regimes. The German press on Monday takes a look at the implications of the events in Tunisia and assess the West's failures to deal with despotism in the Arab world.
What began as the desperate act of one frustrated man back in mid December has had huge repercussions and caused shock waves across the Arab world.
The Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was forced to flee the country last Friday in the light of a popular revolt against his regime. The hurried departure of the man who had ruled the North African country for 23 years followed weeks of protests across the country, sparked by the suicide of Mohamed Bouazizi in the city of Sidi Bouzid. The 26-year-old graduate who ran a fruit and vegetable stall set himself on fire on Dec. 17 after police confiscated his cart. He eventually died on Jan. 4 and became a martyr, emblematic of Tunisian youths' frustrations with unemployment and a repressive state.
Once the protests reached the capital, the president seemed to waiver and offered to step down after elections in 2014. That was not enough for the demonstrators and by Friday, Ben Ali, knowing the game was up, fled the country with his wife.
While the Tunisians rejoiced on Friday that the unpopular president was gone, the future is far from certain. The weekend saw looting and clashes between Tunisian special forces and the exiled president's security guards. While things remain relatively calm on Monday, it is uncertain if the interim government, populated by members of the deeply unpopular regime, will be tolerated.
Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi is expected to announce a new national unity government on Monday that will include some opposition figures. On Monday morning, however, around 1,000 people gathered in the capital Tunis to demand that the ruling RCD party relinquish power completely, shouting slogans like "Out with the RCD!" and "Out with the party of dictatorship!"
Meanwhile there are reports that Ben Ali and his wife Leila, who are now in Saudi Arabia, took a certain amount of booty with them when they left Tunisia on Friday. French daily Le Monde reports that, according to French intelligence, the president's wife withdrew 1.5 tons of gold, worth some €45 million, from the country's central bank before they fled the country.
Observers are waiting to see if the events in Tunisia could lead to further popular revolts in the region. At least four Algerians have set themselves on fire over the past five days and on Monday an Egyptian man also set himself alight outside the parliament building in Cairo. Opposition and independent media in Egypt are already drawing parallels between President Hosnai Mubarak, who has ruled the country for nearly 30 years, and Ben Ali.
The German press on Monday take a look at the events in Tunisia, and the implications for the region, while many editorials also assess the West's failures in dealing with despotism in the Arab world.
The center-right Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:
"The rulers in the region consider themselves unassailable… That is why the fall of the Tunisian president is a milestone in the history of the Arab world. It shows that popular rage can shake even the most entrenched of regimes in the region. Ben Ali, a man whose grip on power seemed guaranteed and whose family unashamedly sucked the country dry, was forced to flee. One could be just as negative about the other Arabic presidents, kings and emirates: Even if they themselves are not personally corrupt, their ministers or family entourage are."
"These countries also share similar economic problems. There is rapid population growth, with half of the population aged 30 or under. There is a lack of jobs and living space and the number of unemployed graduates is particularly high. The countries rely either exclusively on oil exports or tourism. There are no truly diversified economies."
"After the ignominious end of Ben Ali's rule, the Arab autocrats have been warned. They are hardly likely to wait until economic crises bring the people out onto the streets. However, instead of reacting with reforms, they are going to increase repression and strike first before citizens who are sick of their regimes can organize themselves."
The conservative Die Welt writes:
"When a regime falls, it seldom brings a brand new day. The transition from a dictatorship to a democratic state is usually accomplished by those who were already serving the old masters. In the best-case scenario they seize their historic opportunity to become heroes … and create political structures that allow a new political generation to emerge. It is not yet clear if Tunisia is on this path."
"Yet the Tunisian experience is still valuable for the entire region. It is the first practical proof that a people can overthrow a dictator on their own -- rather than, as in Iraq in 2003, have him overthrown for them. This news has electrified the young people in all the countries of the region."
The business daily Handelsblatt writes:
"The good news from Tunisia is that it was not fundamentalist, Islamist forces that chased Ben Ali regime from power. The Tunisians want freedom and democracy. The bad news is that there are too few political leaders who could easily fill the vacuum left behind by the corrupt regime. The danger has not passed: Tunisia can either descend into anarchy and chaos or it can embark on the arduous path to an Arab democracy."
"The country needs help to take this path -- particularly from countries like France, which for years have closed their eyes to the circumstances in the Maghreb states. They could provide economic and political support to a society that would no longer present itself as stable to the outside world while practicing repression at home."
"US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has put it bluntly: The Arab states will only have a future if they forgo corruption and repression under their own steam. Not all of these states have the wealth that the Gulf States enjoy. They all, though, have the power to introduce reforms. If they don't do so, then the frustration of the younger generation will become so great, that the Islamic and terrorist organizations will find it increasingly easier to recruit there. The West must not allow this to happen. And Tunisia can show an unstable region how change can succeed."
The Financial Times Deutschland writes:
"The events in Tunisia should give those in the West who have backed authoritarian Arab regimes pause for thought. Diplomats were fully aware of the Ben Ali's failings -- US diplomats even warned about the growing social dissatisfaction. However, the Americans and the Europeans were too quick to assume that the only alternative to the authoritarian rulers would be Islamist theocracies."
"Ben Ali profited, for example, from the civil war in neighboring Algeria in the 1990s. As long as the Tunisian president prevented the spread of Islamists to his country, then he could do what he liked. The rest of the world left him alone because they misinterpreted repression as stability."
"Yet there would have been no danger in allowing Tunisia to experiment with democracy. There is hardly any Islamist movement there, the economy is closely linked with Europe and the society has a high level of tolerance, as expressed in the large degree of equality for women. The country could have acted as an example for the rest of the Arab world."
The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:
"From the Tunisian point of view, Paris is the capital of Europe. Yet the French leadership only encouraged the demonstrators in their demands for democracy after Ben Ali had fled. …. Although interfering in former colonies can often backfire, Paris could have found the means to strengthen the Tunisian civil society and political opposition in good time. The quicker the old men of the ravaged regime organize an election spectacle that resembles democracy, the harder it will be for the forces of freedom to form in time. The Tunisians can pride themselves on having achieved themselves what Europe could hardly dream of. Hopefully the European support that is now arriving during this decisive stage is not too late."
The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes:
"Arab autocrats and monarchs have good reason to be worried that the revolt in Tunisia could inspire imitation. Their subjects, after all, suffer from the same problems as the Tunisians: unemployment, price increases, corruption, political despotism, and a lack of freedom of speech."
"Most politicians in the West were caught unawares by Tunisian revolt. They took some time before they managed to encourage the protestors. For far too long Europe and the US have regarded the secular Arab dictators … as the lesser evil. As long as they promised to keep the Islamists in their countries in check or to prevent African refugees from reaching Europe, they could count on support. There was little desire to know exactly what methods were being used to ensure this."
Jordan >>> 

Protestors from opposition parties and labor unions shout anti-government slogans outside Jordanian Lower House during an anti-government demonstration in Amman, Jordan, on Jan. 16, 2011. Hundreds of Jordanians on Sunday staged a sit-in, calling for the resignation of the government and protesting rising prices in the country.   (Xinhua/Mohammad Abu Ghosh) (zw)
Protestors from opposition parties and labor unions shout anti-government slogans outside Jordanian Lower House during an anti-government demonstration in Amman, Jordan, on Jan. 16, 2011. Hundreds of Jordanians on Sunday staged a sit-in, calling for the resignation of the government and protesting rising prices in the country. (Xinhua/Mohammad Abu Ghosh)

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