Yesterday Tunisian officials announced a new “unity” government, which saw a handful of opposition figures given token ministerships while the allies of ousted dictator Ben Ali retained all the positions of power. It was assumed by officials this would end the mass protests across the nation. It didn’t.
Rather the protesters quickly identified the new government as a sham and continued their condemnations. Just 24 hours after its founding, the new government is on the brink of collapse as all three of the new opposition ministers walked out. One of the existing ministers, Health Minister Mustapha Jaafar, also resigned.
After decades of authoritarian rule, Tunisian protesters are calling not just for token reforms and new elections, but rather a broad change in the way their society operates. With President Ben Ali safely in Saudi Arabia, there appears to be little interest in embracing Prime Minister Ghannouchi or anyone else as the new strongman.
Exactly where the Tunisian government goes from here remains to be seen, but there continues to be a serious disconnect by Ben Ali’s remaining loyalists, who believe they can still salvage power, and the protesters who want a clean sweep.