>Africa File: Tunisia’s long-time socialist dictator abdicates, flees country in wake of violent protests over food price spike, high unemployment

>– January 17, 2011 Update: Protesters Take to Streets of Tunis on Monday, Demand Ruling Party Relinquish Power; Leftist Leader Admitted into Interim Government

– Tunisian Businessman: Ben Ali Was North African Country’s “Big Brother,” Ruling Party Recruited KGB-Style “Citizen Watchers” (Informers)

– Tunisia’s Present Regime Hosted Palestine Liberation Organization’s Headquarters between 1982 and 1991

Yesterday, Tunisia’s long-time socialist dictator, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, abdicated his post and fled the country after Tunisians violently protested high unemployment and a surge in food prices (pictured above). He has reportedly sought refuge in Saudi Arabia.

At least 23 people died in clashes with security forces this week. The violence was provoked by the suicide of a university student who immolated himself after police confiscated produce authorities say he was selling without a permit. The Tunisian General Workers’ Union was one of the forces coordinating the subsequent protests. In one of his last official edicts, President Ben Ali authorized troops to shoot protesters.

On Saturday, Tunisia’s Constitutional Council declared that the departure of Ben Ali is “permanent” and that parliament speaker Foued Mebezza has temporarily assumed power in the North African country. The Constitutional Council, Tunisia’s highest legal authority on constitutional issues, explained that the country’s new leader has 60 days to organize a presidential election.

Between 1980 and 1984, Ben Ali served as Tunisia’s ambassador to Communist Poland. He later became interior minister and then prime minister, seizing power from Habib Bourguiba, the country’s only other post-independence leader, in a bloodless coup d’etat in 1987.

In spite of his stint in Warsaw, Ben Ali later banned the Tunisian Workers’ Communist Party, perceiving the radical Marxist-Leninist group as a threat to his Socialist International-affiliated Constitutional Democratic Rally. The RCD has been the dominant force in post-independence Tunisia, known until 1964 as the New Constitutional Party and then until 1987 as the Socialist Constitutional Party. The last was the only legal party between 1964 and 1981.

One Tunisian recounts the RCD’s pervasive, Soviet-like influence in that country, including the party’s recruitment of “citizen watchers” (informers):

He remembers the form. You filled it out to become a “citizen watcher” for the party of Zine el Abidine ben Ali. It meant you would spy. Inform on your friends, your family, the people at work and get paid for it. Again and again throughout his 30 years, Ahmad Chebil says, they approached him. They offered him perks and advantageous jobs, home loans and car credit. But each time he refused entreaties to join the president’s Constitutional Democratic Rally, or RCD, its French initials.

It is not clear if the RCD will be dissolved as a result of Ben Ali’s departure. In a late-breaking report from January 17, the MSM reports that protesters took to the streets of Tunis on Monday, demanding that the ruling party relinquish power. Protesters chanted: “Out with the RCD!” and “Out with the party of the dictatorship!” Tunisian security forces responded with water cannon, tear gas, and warning shots from their firearms.

Ahead of promised free elections, Najib Chebbi, founder of the leftist Progressive Democratic Party, which opposed Ben Ali, will become regional development minister in the interim government. Opposition leaders will also get the education and health portfolios.

Between 1982 and 1991, the Palestine Liberation Organization was based in Tunis. On October 1, 1985, the Israeli Air Force bombed the PLO’s Tunis headquarters, killing more than 60 people.

Before leaving Tunis, Ben Ali dismissed his government, declared a state of emergency, and banned public gatherings. He promised political and media reforms and slashed prices on food staples. On Friday night, rioters set fire to the main train station in Tunis and looted shops. Today, officials acknowleded that 42 detainees died in a prison fire after at least one inmate tried to escape. The military closed Tunisian airspace on Friday, but it was reopened on Saturday.

4 responses to “>Africa File: Tunisia’s long-time socialist dictator abdicates, flees country in wake of violent protests over food price spike, high unemployment

  1. mah29001 January 15, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    >It seems that some of the protesters are really from local Leftist unions in Tunisia using the very same tactics their European colleagues are using.I am guessing that no major change will come to Tunisia, so long as the forces of the far left remain in charge.

  2. mah29001 January 16, 2011 at 3:33 am

    >You should also be mindful that Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been endorsing the riots in Tunisia as well:http://www.jihadwatch.org/2011/01/hamas-and-islamic-jihad-applaud-uprising-in-tunisia.htmlSo it won't matter if the Russians will have influence in Tunisia or Hamas or Islamic Jihad since it seems Russia backs Hamas as well.

  3. mah29001 January 17, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    >Look who else are the major supporters of the riots in Tunisia, the Muslim Brotherhood:http://www.ikhwanweb.com/article.php?id=27839There are some conspiracy theory websites who try to accuse Israel of being "behind" WikiLeaks which the U.S. government has denied helped spark the revolt in Tunisia. Russia has been the obvious supporter of WikiLeaks, and its own Russia Today channel gave an interview to Julian Assange earlier last year.Since Tunisia was under Communist control, it seems the Russians are backing its "democratization" process like what went on in the Czech Republic with Prague Spring.

  4. mah29001 January 18, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    >I've also heard reports that the same PLO terror group also supports the coup in Tunisia and the riots as well.Interestingly enough, as the article states, Tunisia's former dictator helped out the PLO during the 80's…did the PLO tell its ally to leave in the nick of time to promote this false thinking that there might be actual democratic process, i.e. Prague Spring going on in Tunisia?

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