The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts tagged tunisia
Books in the mail

I just received a copy of No Exit, Yoav Di-Capua's new book on Sartre and Arab intellectuals (it is essentially an intellectual history of the post-colonial Arab world) and its cover is very, very cool. I very much enjoyed Di-Capua's last book, Gatekeepers of the Arab Past, a great historiography and was happy to meet him in Austin (where he teaches at the University of Texas) on the sidelines of South By Southwest a few years ago. It'll be some more rigorous reading than I'm doing now (I've been devouring Cixin Liu's The Three-Body Problem sci-fi series, see great reviews here and here) but looking forward to it.

Also recently received are two books on Morocco (and Jordan) – it's relatively rare that you get serious and in-depth English-language scholarship on Morocco, so good to see that – and a collected volume edited by Alfred Stepan including many A-listers and friends (Rached Ghannouchi, Carrie Wickham, Nathan Brown, Monica Marks, Radwan Masmoudi, etc.) that looks at the Egypt vs. Tunisia question post-Arab Spring. With chapter titles like "The roots of Egypt's constitutional catastrophe", it's pure Arabist geek-bait.

On Tunisia's local elections

My Crisis Group colleague Michael Ayari and I have penned an op-ed for Le Mondepublished yesterday, analyzing the outcome of the local elections that took place on Sunday 6 May. It's in French, so let me address key points we made here:

  • The local elections are important as part of the democratic transformation the country is haltingly going through – postponed four times, they are a key component of the constitutional process set in motion in 2014 and will return the first democratically elected local officials since the 2011 uprising, hopefully reinforcing the legitimacy of local government.
  • However they are also important politically. Tunisia is entering an 18-month cycle of electoral activity, starting with these local polls and ending with parliamentary and presidential elections in 2019. These will no doubt test the alliance between Nida Tounes and Nahda that has stabilized the country through a broad consensus, but in part because it is too broad, deprived the governing coalition of vitality and direction at times.
  • Early results (official ones should be out tonight) suggest low turnout – no surprise considering how disaffected many Tunisians are with politicians, another consequence of the "mushy consensus" (to borrow from the French expression consensus mou) – and decent results for Nahda and independents, while coalition partner Nida Tounes, the party of President Beji Said Essebsi, drops.
  • These elections thus emphasize the Achilles' heel of the current governing coalition: Nida Tounes' weakness and gradual disintegration, as it is not capable of organizing all political forces belonging to the "Destourian" current (nationalist/secular, ranging from genuine democrats to former regime holdvers). Other political forces have failed to break through either.
  • If Nida Tounes goes into the 2019 election cycle in disarray, it will face tremendous difficulty in coalescing around a parliamentary electoral strategy and a presidential candidate. Nahda however remains disciplined and capable of uniting, and as a result has paradoxically become key to Nida Tounes' internal stability (as its coordination in these elections have shown). But it cannot make up for the party's internal divides.
  • This points to the looming problem facing Tunisia politically: the coalition between Nida Tounes is perceived as unnatural by many (especially among Nida Tounes supporters) and while Nahda has made many concessions it is not really a junior partner, as was originally intended by Essebsi. The regional polarisation over political Islam (Qatar crisis, etc.) makes maintaining the consensus more difficult.
  • The success that independents have had – many of them former RCD (Ben Ali's party before 2011) members – suggest a reconfiguration of the political landscape under way on the secular side. Some may seek negotiation with Nida Tounes, but will demand greater control of the party and feed into the parliamentary candidate selection process. Others may decide to form a rival bloc to it, perhaps on an anti-consensus platform. (Former RCD members are split on Nahda: many have been courted quite effectively by the Islamist party, share its general conservatism and have received its help in these elections. Others are die-hard anti-Islamists, closer to the Arab nationalist left.)  
  • One key lesson of this election is that the disaffection with the consensus politics in place since 2014 must be look at seriously. Key grievances, aside corruption, include the lack of any fundamental change the country is run, especially its regional inequalities and access to economic opportunity. The current consensus, to be maintained (which is desirable to avoid a lapse into the polarisation seen elsewhere), needs to take that on. Otherwise new political forces may campaign against the mixed record of the governing coalition in 2019, including against the principle of compromise and democratic progress.  
On the politics behind Tunisia's protests

I wrote the piece below with my colleague Michael Ayari, to touch on the politics behind the scenes of the ongoing protests in Tunisia, which are examined at length in a new Crisis Group report, Stemming Tunisia’s Authoritarian Drift. (Update: Michael and I also have a different piece in Le Monde: En Tunisie, « le risque d’une dérive autoritaire ».)


The protests and rioting that have raged in parts of Tunisia since last week are sometimes branded, both inside the country and abroad, as signs of a new revolutionary moment similar to the 2010-2011 uprising that launched the Arab Spring. The images circulating, after all, give a sense of déjà-vu: young men burning tires at impromptu barricades, throwing stones at police; the army deploying to secure public institutions and banks, etc. This is indeed familiar: it has taken place at regular intervals, especially in winter months, for the last few years. As before, it will most likely die down: protestors are largely driven by specific socio-economic grievances, not a desire to overthrow the regime. Even if there is some continuity -- frustration with social injustice and corruption -- today’s Tunisia is not ruled by a dictator.

The immediate trigger for the current protests was the new state budget for 2018, whose implementation began on 1 January. It introduces tax hikes on a number of consumer goods (especially imports) and services, as well as a one-percent increase in value-added tax, contributing to a pre-existing rise in the cost of living that, in a gloomy economic context for most Tunisians, is understandably unpopular. The government says it needs to raise income to balance its finances, and especially to pay for public sector salaries (which account for over half of expenditures). This budget, passed in December 2017, received the support of the Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail (UGTT), the main trade union federation. In most respects it is more protectionist than liberal, and was opposed by business lobbies.

The government has not been deft in selling its policies: claims that the increases won’t affect the poor have fallen on deaf ears (perceptions of cost-of-living increases are much higher than the 6-percent official inflation rate), and the minister of finance sounded rather Marie-Antoinette-ish when he impatiently suggested in a recent interview that mobile-phone recharge cards, whose prices have increased, were not a basic necessity.

At its core, anger against the government’s austerity policies is driven by an overwhelmingly young population with few prospects, especially in the long-neglected interior part of the country. Successive governments have had little success in changing this since 2011, and the current one must reconcile pressure from the street with that coming from its international partners, including the IMF, which has called for accelerated reforms and greater fiscal responsibility.

The protests are mostly non-violent -- the large protests during the day have been well-organized and peaceful, expressing the general frustration of the population about the meager returns of the 2011 revolution when it comes to living standards. At night, however, a different crowd comes out, often engaging in looting and attacks on public buildings, stealing from stores or taking advantage of localised chaos for criminal purposes. The rage against the system that periodically erupts in the most deprived areas of the country -- and has done so before, during and since the 2011 uprising (indeed there have been similar protests every January for the last three years) -- often targets security forces, as the arson of police stations attests.

The police, which must address the rioting, is showing signs of panic and over-reach: among the over 700 persons arrested since the unrest began are left-wing bloggers and activists who have conducted no illegal acts. This reversion to bad old habits of the era of dictatorship is dangerous, as it may encourage further escalation and shift the framing of current unrest in a more anti-state direction. It is also yet another sign of the lack of reform and capacity-building that has plagued the ministry of interior.

There are subtler political dimensions to the unrest. The protest movement is, unsurprisingly, being encouraged by the opposition, especially the far-left, some of whose activists have been arrested. Tunisia is entering a two-year electoral cycle (local in May 2018, parliamentary and presidential by the end of 2019) and the opposition has an interest in positioning itself against the current governing coalition, led by the secular nationalist Nida Tounes and Islamist An-Nahda parties. It is also supported by elements of civil society and activist groups such as the “Fech Nestannew?” (”What are we waiting for?”) campaign, which is expressing a widely-felt resentment against austerity policies.

Somewhat paradoxically, the anti-government protests are convenient for Nida Tounes and An-Nahda, perennial rivals who nonetheless share a common foe: Youssef Chahed, the prime minister appointed in August 2016 who must now deal with the unrest. Originally seen as subservient to Béji Caid Essebsi, the Nida Tounes leader who was elected as Tunisia’s president in 2014, Chahed has grown in stature and popularity, especially after he launched an anti-corruption campaign in summer 2017. In recent weeks, Chahed is said to have threatened to arrest senior members of both parties and their allies in the public administration -- but has been blocked from doing so. More generally, he has begun to build political alliances in anticipation of 2019’s presidential election, especially with the powerful UGTT. His relationship with Essebsi and An-Nahda leader Rached Ghannouchi has now significantly soured, and they may hope to use the unrest as a pretext to justify his removal or at least dent his appeal.

Previous protests died down after political leaders mobilized to calm the situation or the government granted concessions; this may yet still happen. If not, they carry a risk of amplifying the increasingly prevalent idea that Tunisia’s democratic transition is failing, particularly if security forces over-react and political bickering allows the situation to fester, providing an opening for a wider crackdown in the name of public order. The diffuse sense that the freedoms gained since 2011 are weakening the state and an authoritarian restoration of some sort is necessary is spreading. As Crisis Group argues in its latest report, the danger is that this will encourage political adventurism by would-be saviours on horseback; the resistance any such attempt would engender would likely create far greater unrest, violence and economic misery than the ongoing, often plodding and frustrating, democratic transition.

Tunisia’s leaders, in other words, has little choice but to move forward and work harder to strike a compromise on the social contract -- and especially address the historic neglect of parts of the population -- as they did on their political transition. Nostalgia for the era of dictatorship or the revolutionary fervor of early 2011 will bring only problems, not solutions.

Issandr El Amrani and Michael Ayari are respectively North Africa Project Director and Senior Tunisia Analyst at International Crisis Group.

Events in Tunisia

The Tunisian government passed two pieces of legislation last week. One, the infamous economic reconciliation law (which has been championed by President Essebsi since he took office), is designed to protect businessmen and former regime figures from prosecution for corruption. For more on corruption in Tunisia and the tug-of-war between the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (whose now undermined mandate includes corruption) and the government, you can read my report in The Nation from Tunisia last Spring.

The Tunisian government also announced it will be the first Arab country to allow Muslim women to marry non-Muslims. This is excellent news, but the timing fo the announcement seems deeply cynical, designed to draw attention away from the much more complicated issue of corruption, and to use the state's feminist credentials as a form of international propaganda (something Tunisia has a long history of doing.)

On feminism in Tunisia

I visited Tunis last month and one thing I was interested in finding out more about was what kind of discussions Tunisian feminists are having in the aftermath of the Ben Ali regime -- and of the detailed and horrifying revelations of human rights abuses against women (particularly Islamist women) that took place in this most "feminist" of Arab countries, one that does have the most progressive legislation on women's rights in the region. I find the questions raised by state feminism and the divide between secular and Islamic feminists fascinating. I wrote about it for Al Fanar

Meanwhile, independent female activists who criticized the regime faced harassment and vilification. And, as has been revealed by recent testimony collected by the country’s Truth and Dignity Commission, women associated with the Islamist movement were subjected to shocking abuse, including rape, torture in detention and forced divorce.

“Was the Tunisian regime ‘feminist’ out of political necessity and to mask a democratic deficit…or out of modernist conviction? Does it even deserve to be called feminist?” writes Bessis. “What’s certain is that the regime was masterful in its ability to use women.”

It was also successful in dividing women. Under Ben Ali, says Mahmoud, Islamist and secularist women “might as well have existed in two different universes.” Secularist leftist women “were engaged in a political struggle with Islamists” and “did not do much to document or help Islamist women with what they were going through.”

“The dictatorship broke relations between women,” Abdellatif told me.

Dispatch from Tunis, January 2011

Five years ago today, Zine al-Abideen Ben Ali fled Tunisia. Shortly after, I spent a week in Tunis reporting on the revolution - personally for me an unforgettable moment, and one that burns just as vividly in my memory as the Egyptian uprising that would come a few days later. Looking from through my archives, I found the fragment of a long piece I had planned to write on Tunisia before having to rush back to Cairo; as result of the drama unfolding there, I had to abandon that Tunisia piece. It is reproduced below, with only minor stylistic editing and no correction of facts that were, back then in January 2011, very fresh and still uncertain.


The Tunisian revolution was sparked by the self-immolation of Mohammed Bouazizi, a young man who supported his family by selling fruits and vegetables in a cart in the central town of Sidi Bouzid. Bouazizi decided to set himself alight after a humiliating altercation with a female police officer in the town’s square who had decided to confiscate his cart. One version of events has the officer attempt to extract a bribe from Bouazizi; others slap him publicly when he protested.

Either way, Bouazizi was the victim of both a petty injustice and a larger symbolic one: although he was probably not, as initially reported, a unemployed graduate forced into menial labor by lack of opportunities, he endured the precarity of this long-neglected part of the country and the arbitrariness of Ben Ali’s police state. His death launched the rebellion of the town’s youth, which over the next several weeks would slowly spread to other cities. The angry young men of Sidi Bouzid responded by fighting a type of guerrilla warfare against the police, drawing them one or two at a time into the warrens of the city’s popular neighbourhoods and then mobbing them.

These tactics gradually spread to neighbouring cities, and eventually the wealthier towns of the coast, but the protests were not taken up in Tunis until very late. It appears it was the decision of the police to use snipers with instructions to shoot-to-kill over the weekend of 8 and 9 January that tipped things over and signalled the end for Ben Ali. Due to the slow buildup of the confrontation by between the people and the state, the fiercest part of the uprising remained in places like Sidi Bouzid and other towns of the inner centre like Kasserine, the site of some of the worst killing (at least 50 people are believed to have been killed over that weekend, mostly by sniper fire).

Ben Ali’s response to the crisis came in three speeches. The first, in late December, threatened; the second, after that murderous weekend, cajoled and attempted to deflect blame; the third, on the eve of his departure for Jeddah, apologised made concessions but came too late. By that point, the army had already refused to fire on protestors and was in places intervening to protect them from the police. The vast security apparatus Ben Ali had set up was falling apart. Many Tunisians believe that, at some point between 4 and 8pm on Friday 14 January, General Rachid Ammar, the head of the armed forces, told their president that it was time to go, perhaps in coordination with the US, which had showed no sign of wanting to defend Ben Ali.

Among the ensuing chaos – said to be caused by the collapse of the secret police and the ruling Constitutional Democratic Rally (known by its French acronym RCD) party, whose more thuggish members were widely said to be part of the looting – the many palaces of relatives of the first family were ransacked and fear spread that insecurity was deliberately being created to justify a triumphant return for Ben Ali. In each neighbourhood, local militias formed. They mounted checkpoints, checking IDs and ensuring that no strangers were allowed in at night.

One taxi driver in his sixties spoke of this with pride: "I am working overtime to allow the young people to take care of security, to take care of us. They keep security in the neighbourhood with sticks and metal bars, and in the morning when we wake up, we find that they’ve left bread and milk on our doormats. They know how much each house needs, how many people it contains. We take care of each other."

Even so, he later acknowledged that the said supplies had been looted from a nearby French supermarket whose local partner had been Leila Trabelsi, Ben Ali’s despised wife who ran her family’s business interests like a mafia. The line between civic duty and vigilantism is sometimes hard to see.

Even after the security situation began to return to normal, at least in the capital, the government’s stability remained a concern: most of the ministers in the interim cabinet where RCD members, some of them privy to the decisions that led to the brutal repression of the weekend. This infuriated many, but none more so than the youth of Sidi Bouzid and other central towns that had suffered the bulk of the repression: they marched towards the capital and began to lay siege to the Kasbah, the seat of government near Tunis’ old city. Once again, protestors clashed with police, which fired tear gas. “These young men from Sidi Bouzid and elsewhere in the centre, they have the right to be here, to be angry,” a trade union activist told me in a Tunis café. “They carried out the revolution and paid the price for it.”

On the second day of the siege, General Ammar intervened personally, telling the crowd that the army would act as “a guarantor of the revolution” and prevent the comeback of the RCD. This in turn set off a frenzy of speculation as to whether Ammar himself might be the best choice to lead a transitional government, rather than Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi, who held the post since 1999 and had been a cabinet minister throughout Ben Ali’s reign.

In revolutionary moments, even the wisest and best-informed change their minds from one moment to the next, dizzy from the rampant rumour and disinformation. People go from living in a strictly regulated police state to protesting for freedom to wishing for order to be restored as quickly as possible, even at the hands of a military figure. They see a protest movement against the government as another potential source destabilisation, a delay to getting the country economically back on track.

One night about 10 days after Ben Ali fled, I sat plumped in a white leather designer armchair at the chic villa of one of Tunis’ most prominent doctors — he owns a clinic where clientele from Libya, Algeria, Mali and Europe come to receive treatment on a par with French hospitals but at a lower cost. I was listening to a group of wealthy Tunisians have a heated debate about the growing unrest against the interim government headed by Ghannouchi. They all agreed it must go: its ministers were too deeply implicated in the scandals of the Ben Ali era, even if they did not benefit from them themselves.

Several entrepreneurs and an industrialist are also present; they have all received excellent education in France or the US and come from moneyed families. They worry about the composition of the RCD, but also about the new political reality. In particular, the UGTT — a trade union federation once largely loyal to the Ben Ali regime — has emerged as a potent political force, organising a general strike in the economic hub of Sfax and is beginning to flex its muscles to demand higher wages. While the UGTT’s leadership was largely composed of RCD cronies, its mid-level members across the country often took a leadership role in the revolution, using their nationwide network to organise protests and spread information. In the posh northern suburbs of Tunis, many worry that this will dampen the economic recovery.

As they argue, the industrialist — who runs a factory that employs 1200 mostly low-skilled workers — strikes a different tone than the rest "We are suddenly experiencing an extraordinary abundance of discourse and opinion," he says. "It is as if time has accelerated, things are moving too fast to judge where they are going. We change our opinions everyday. And if we want to return to normality, we have to address the concerns of lower-income people. I see them everyday at my factory, they are scared and directionless and worried about their daily bread, we don’t know what they’ll do if they don’t get their 220 dinars a month. The solution cannot be only political. We took advantage of the old system. We were all seduced by the myth of economic growth. The Tunisian elite betrayed its people, and personally I am going to work to counter this. The distribution of wealth was not carried out correctly in recent years. This revolution was borne out of anger, and if it continues we are all headed towards suicide."

The others think the industrialist is exaggerating, and that while social and economic policy will have to be addressed, the current problem is chiefly one of public relations and confidence. Prime Minister Ghannouchi infuriated the public by revealing, soon after the first interim was formed, that he had a telephone conversation with Ben Ali, whom he even mentioned — perhaps out of habit — with reverence. What they seem to want most of all is someone with uncontested authority, like Ammar, the army general.

Yet, for now, it is hard not to feel that some hope about Tunisia’s future is warranted. As normality returns (even if there will have to be some longer-term process of national reconciliation for those elements of the security forces associated with repression, as well as informants and local-level ruling party bosses) there is a ebullient sense of democratic possibility.

On Habib Bourguiba Avenue, Tunis’ central boulevard where multiple protests are organised daily — sometimes by mere high school kids, giddy to have a share of a revolution started by others — random strangers have vigorous debates unimaginable a month beforehand. They argue about whether to stick with a presidential system or adopt a parliamentary one, debate the merits of this or that party or politician, and make solemn calls to maintain Tunisia’s attachment to secularism and women’s rights. There is a nostalgia for the certitudes of the old regime, where everyone knew the place of everything. They need to grow used to the fact that, as Donald Rumsfeld once said, freedom is untidy.

Why Tunisia’s National Dialogue Quartet worked

I have a blog post up on Crisis Group's In Pursuit of Peace blog about the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, which won the Nobel Peace Prize, explaining in a nutshell why it was able to accomplish what it did in 2013:

There are several reasons the National Dialogue succeeded, including strong popular and international pressure to avoid the Egyptian scenario. A key factor was that the Quartet had real support in Tunisian society. The UGTT, despite years of dictatorship, had managed to build a national network of over 400,000 members and today has the ability to call for massive general strikes that can paralyse the economy. While the UGTT represents labour, the UTICA represents capital, the influential and moneyed business elite. The human rights league and the lawyers’ syndicate are veterans of the opposition to the Ben Ali regime and played an important role in the 2011 revolution. Together, these four organisations had both moral clout and political brawn; they could mobilise public opinion and steer the national debate. The UGTT and UTICA, precisely because they are often at loggerheads on labour issues, made for a particularly compelling duo in jointly pushing an agenda of compromise.

Read the full thing here.

Tunisia's Rachid Ghannouchi on blasphemy, homosexuality, equality

In a new book, Au sujet de l'Islam ("Speaking of Islam"), Rachid Ghannouchi, the head of the Ennahda party in Tunisia, give his opinions on a number of contemporary issues. Here are a few quotes translated from a press summary:

On blasphemy: "It's forbidden in Tunisia, although freedom of conscience and opinion are protected by the Constitution. You have the choice to be Muslim or not, but you don't have the choice to mock the beliefs of others." 
On homosexuality: "We don't approve it. But Islam does not spy on folks. It preserves privacy. Everyone leads his/her life and is responsible before his/her creator." 
On equality: "Inheritance does not reflect the value of women versus men. They are equal in terms of their human value, but don't have the same rights and responsibilities in society." 

 

I wonder if the seemingly liberal position on homosexuality is a reaction above all to the pervasive spying under Ben Ali and the way the intelligence services used people's private lives, including real or false sexual allegations, as ammunition against them. On the old Islamist chestnut that men and women don't need to be equal in everything, just to have an equitable distribution of obligations -- What about the many men who live off their wives' work, or systematically refuse to pay alimony? Shouldn't they lose the rights of "breadwinners" when they shirk their obligations? 

Tunis: "Things are bad, but that's normal"

Last month I was in Tunis for a conference on Arab intellectuals and historical transformations in the region.  I wrote up something about it for the LRB blog:

On Avenue Bourguiba, a young man with a swollen mouth and a bandaged arm had been lying all morning almost unconscious on the ground, a dirty Tunisian flag across his chest. A few men in the circle of onlookers finally decided to pick him up and walk him away. ‘He’s been there ten days,’ a middle-aged waiter from a nearby cafe explained. He was on a hunger strike. I asked why. The waiter shrugged. ‘He’s from outside the capital. He hasn’t got his rights yet.’ The waiter segued into his own grievances: he works 15 hours a day, has four children, makes 400 dinars a month. They never eat meat.

I was in Tunis last month for a conference entitled Intellectuals and the Historic Transformations in the Arab World. The first speaker was the historian Hichem Djait. He gave a brief history of Arab intellectuals and their persecution by authoritarian regimes, before concluding that they have lost influence across the region. ‘The Arab world took a step towards democracy, but one has the painful impression that it is not ready,’ he said. Instead, the uprisings have ‘exacerbated very strong and very violent tensions’. In countries that are tearing themselves apart, what role is there for intellectuals?

'Sexual Jihad' in Syria

Sana Saeed tries to trace the "Tunisian women are going on sex jihad in Syria" story to its roots -- which turn out to be tangled and possibly non-existent. As Saeed notes, any story with the words "sex" and "jihad" in the title is going to be catnip to the international press. And making an accusation like this (which Tunisia's Minister of Interior did recently) may be an easy way to embarrass/discredit Islamists. 

Despite the story having gained traction of the viral variety, and despite the concerns and facts expressed by Tunisian officials, there seems to be actually very little evidence to suggest that the so-called sexual Jihad is actually a thing (and Jihad al-Nikkah is not a thing in Islamic jurisprudence).

The story of Tunisian women returning from waging sex on holy warriors (thanks RT) in Syria impregnated with future warrior babies itself is, at best, just incredibly questionable and many, from the onset of the story’s break into the English press, expressed deep skepticism. In a civil war that has had many ideological fronts, the most pernicious in is salience has perhaps been that of information. Syria has been a cluster of misinformation, misattribution and propaganda. O’Bagygate and Mint Press-gate are two of the most recent headlines to highlight the problems in not only reporting on the conflict but also how easily questionable, untrue, unverified information is gobbled up to serve ideological biases and wishful thinking.

 

AsidesUrsula Lindseytunisia, sex, jihad
Meanwhile in Tunisia

Allegations of a deal between the country's two top political leaders: 

Not much reliable information about the meeting in Paris between former Tunisian Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi and Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi has been leaked. However, it is known that the two have reached an agreement in principle, which foreign partners — namely the Europeans, the Americans and the Germans — have imposed. The two enemy brothers need to agree in order to achieve a democratic transition in Tunisia and to avoid an Egyptian-style bloody scenario, even if that would anger the popular bases of the two camps.
The deal includes keeping Ali Laarayedh at the head of the government and Mustapha Ben Jaafar at the head of the National Constituent Assembly (ANC), while replacing Moncef Marzouki with Essebsi as president of the republic. As for the government, it will consist of technocrats and politicians with the addition of two new posts of deputy prime minister; one for security affairs and the other for economic affairs. These two posts will be “offered” to the democratic opposition.

If true, it's exactly the kind of elite back-room dealing that appears to be the key to fragile political transitions. 

Tunisia's Ennahda won't contest presidency

Le Monde reports on the crisis in Tunisia, after the murder of Mohammed Brahmi and eight soldiers at the Algerian border, now compounded by the Egyptian June 30. As rumored for a few weeks, this suggests Ennahda has officially taken a decision not to present a presidential candidate in elections next year:  

Devant l'urgence de la situation, les débats internes sont mis en sourdine. "Le courant dur chez nous est mis à la retraite", assure ce responsable. Des décisions devraient sous peu être annoncées, comme celle, prise depuis un moment mais encore jamais rendue publique, qu'Ennahda ne présentera pas de candidat à la prochaine élection présidentielle.

Of course, circumstances can change (as they did for the Brothers in Egypt, although they must regret that choice) and a new decision on the presidency can be made next year. Or they can choose to back a third-party candidate (or indeed even President Moncef Marzouki, the incumbent, for re-election as he has been fairly loyal to the Troika alliance). But it shows the events in Egypt have had their impact.