Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali’s decision to step down, after failing to form a non-partisan technocratic government, is a significant move that should jolt the system into action. At his press conference, Jibali said: “I promised if my initiative did not succeed I would resign as the head of the government and this is what I am doing ...” Hopefully his move will jumpstart the formation of a new government.
Tunisia, whose uprising set off revolts across the Arab world two years ago, continues to suffer from many internal divisions post-revolution — including the deep political strife between the Islamists and liberals, the latter being the current representatives of the Tunisian street.
Furthermore, the assassination, two weeks ago, of leftist opposition leader Shukri Belaid has brought to the surface the country’s social and religious tensions. The current government, which is dominated by Al Nahda, needs to work hard at addressing those issues. It can start with proving to the Tunisian people that it will fight any extremist elements aiming to derail progress and work within the boundaries of democracy. Since the 2011 elections, the overwhelming feeling is that the moderate Islamist party has ignored the people’s demands and has retreated to non-democratic practices; they have yet to take any serious measures to reform the police for example, who continue to operate the way they used to during the days of the brutal Zine Al Abidine Bin Ali government. The present government has yet to provide justice for the victims of the revolution, and most importantly, it has not addressed the glaring economic problems every Tunisian is suffering from. This includes serious pre-revolution concerns of corruption and a poverty gap.
The current Tunisian government must prove itself to be inclusive and representative of all Tunisians. As is the case in Egypt, this leadership has failed to fully turn its people’s concerns and demands on the streets into action. It is understandable that change requires time, but these few months are critical for a country that is in desperate need of economic and social reform.