Tunisia's Ghannouchi is dead in the water

Update: As predicted, Ghannouchi is no longer president, Speaker of Parliament Fouad Mebazaâ is now interim president under Article 57 of the constitution, has mandate to hold elections in 45-60 days. But he may not be entirely acceptable either, although at least this answers the critique that the constitution had not been followed. Also, Ben Ali is now officially no longer president.

I really get the sense, watching Tunisian opposition politicians speak on television, that the interim presidency of Mohammed Ghannouchi is stillborn. Many reject the man as well as some of the people around him (especially , and abhor above all the notion that existing political elites may survive. Yet, inevitably, some of this political class will survive, but they will have to negotiate their survival. In the meantime, the mechanism to move beyond the Ghannouchi interim government is not clear yet, the opposition will have to unite around a concrete proposal if they want to find a way out. In the absence of a clear opposition leader, it may be left to the military to act as the caretaker government, which comprises its own risks.

But Tunisia was too much of a police state not to have compromised many people. As well as politicians, there are the police officers, informants, bureaucrats, businessmen and countless others who worked with the system. Some of these are major criminals who should pursued in courts, others are minor criminals who might benefit from an amnesty. The question is now one of how much justice to sacrifice to stability and return to the rule of law. 

The picture below was circulating last night; it shows a police van parked near a supermarket while the van's drivers (presumably policemen) robbed the store. This is the legacy left behind by Ben Ali's police-mafia state: a police system that is totally compromised and unable to function normally, a castrated and humiliated judiciary, a state bureaucracy with credibility problems and a population that, understandably, wants revenge. 

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.