Tunisia’s civil society feeling empowered

The recent nomination of Interior Minister Ali Laarayedh by Ennahdha’s decision-making Shura Council for the post of Prime Minister was interpreted by many as a sign that the radicals are asserting dominance over the ruling Islamist party at the expense of the moderates, writes Mohamed Bechri, the former president of Amnesty International’s Tunisian Section. At the same time, the appointment was a challenge to the opposition parties, which regarded Laarayedh as the man who, as interior minister, failed to reform his ministry, prevent human rights violations and excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrators, and reign in the Salafi violence.

Ennahdha’s vulnerability should not be understated, Bechri writes for the Fikra Forum. Its secular partners in the ruling troika lost half of their 49 members in the Constituent Assembly due to infighting and resignations. Meanwhile, the political opposition and civil society feel empowered in the aftermath of the murder of leftist leader Chokri Belaid (above). According to a recent opinion poll by 3C Etudes, Belaid’s Popular Front nearly doubled its supporters (from 7% to 12 %). Measured in the same poll, Ennahdha and main secular opposition party, Nidaa Tounes, are now neck and neck in their shares of public support, receiving 29.4% and 29.8%, respectively.

Therefore, it was no surprise that Ennahdha’s “cabinet broadening” project failed miserably as no party outside the troika agreed to accept it. In the end, the ruling coalition had no choice but to surrender its control over the so-called sovereign ministries of Interior, Justice, and Foreign Affairs, a particularly difficult move for Ennahdha’s leadership, making the manipulation of upcoming election results nearly impossible.

Pressure is expected to mount for the remainder of this year, or at least until the parliamentary elections in October or November. Secular opposition forces will likely unify around two separate and somewhat antagonistic blocs: the liberal Nidaa Tounes, which includes remnants of the old regime, and the large progressive leftist Popular Front, which benefited from the assassination of its leader Chokri Belaid, and which may soon absorb the Joumhouri Party and the whole socialist left, including the ex-communists.

As a result, Ennahdha’s rule will be shaken in the coming period, and the loss of their majority status with the coming parliamentary elections is a possibility, even though it is unlikely that it will suffer the kind of collapse that will make it irrelevant in the Tunisian political scene anytime soon.

This is a brief extract from an article at the Fikra Forum.RTWT

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88 Generation Students party ‘will benefit Burma’s democracy’

News that Burma’s 88 Generation Students group will form a political party followed a lengthy internal debate, writes Hans Hulst. Apparently, the group was split between two factions: one favoring a focus on civil-society work, spearheaded by Min Ko Naing (above), and another in favor of an active political role, with strategist Ko Ko Gyi as its most notable proponent.

But the decision to enter the political arena will benefit Burma’s democracy in three significant ways, he writes for Irrawaddy, a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.


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Inspired by Wang Bingzhang – Fred Hiatt’s Nine Days

Inspired by the true story of a teenage girl’s search for her kidnapped father, Wang Bingzhang (left),a Chinese pro-democracy activist, the young adult thriller Nine Days is the latest book by author and Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt.

Wang Bingzhang established China Spring, the first overseas pro-democracy Chinese magazine and launched a movement publicly denouncing one-party rule in the early 1980s, according to Human Rights in China. He also co-founded the China Freedom Democracy Party and the China Democracy Justice Party. He has been imprisoned since being abducted by Chinese secret agents in Vietnam in June 2002. 

Mr. Hiatt will discuss Nine Days along with Ti-Anna Wang, whose struggle to find her father Wang Bingzhang and secure his freedom inspired the book. 

Book Discussion and Reception

Nine Days with Fred Hiatt, author and editorial page editor of the The Washington Post and Ti-Anna Wang, daughter of jailed Chinese activist Wang Bingzhang

Thursday, April 4, 2013 5:00pm to 6:30pm Freedom House 1301 Connecticut Avenue NW, Fourth Floor Washington, DC 20036

Human Rights in China is a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy.

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