The announcement of a new interim government in Tunisia may reassure observers that the country can finally establish the calm and stability needed to effect a democratic transition.
Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi retains his post, but he is the only member of the former ruling party to do so.
“The aim of the government is to bring the country to democracy,” he said.
The widely anticipated announcement should reassure those protesters concerned that the old order might engineer a comeback.
“If the new cabinet line-up remains dominated by figures close to the ousted regime, further demonstrations – either spontaneous or fomented by the labor union – are likely,” said analyst Mohammed El Katiri.
But the new cabinet is largely made up of independent technocrats and, while the powerful UGTT labor union said it will not join the government, it does accept Ghannouchi staying in office. The union has played a leading role in the demonstrations and its consent is likely to appease protesters calling for the government to be purged of RCD members.
Earlier today, the foreign minister’s resignation fed anxiety about the country’s political direction and stability.
Kamel Morjan, who had warned that instability was jeopardizing prospects for democratic reform, resigned after several days of protests.
“This is not good news. People who knew him personally all agreed that he was a good guy,” said Radwan Masmoudi, an exiled Tunisian democracy advocate.
“Many reports suggest he played an important role in persuading Ben Ali to leave and in convincing the army not to shoot at demonstrators,” he told the Digest. “This is a loss for Tunisia.”
His resignation came as a senior official of the European Union praised Tunisia’s democratic turn, but expressed concern that the current turmoil could jeopardize prospects for a sustainable transition.
“Tunisia is only at the beginning of its transformation,” said Stefan Fule, the EU’s commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy. “Tunisian authorities should do their utmost to build public trust and create the conditions for stability in this transitional period.”
The volatility has given rise to growing demands for Western assistance to support Tunisia’s fragile transition.