In 2011, after a peddler, Muhammed Buazizi, set himself on fire and triggered a revolution in Tunisia, the social movements spreaded to the other Arab countries and the process has been called as ‘Arab Spring’ afterwards, even the consequences were different country by counrty.
In Tunisia there were particular gains for the people and yet it was stil not adequate obviously. Today, the streets of Tunisia are overflowing with the people’s rage, demands and voice once again. And we have made interviews with the Tunisian youth movements, this time with the Union of Young Patriots Democrats, youth movement of Democratic Patriots’ Unified Party, which is a component of the Popular Front, about the events and uprising mentioned above.
For seven years, the country has been living in uncertainty and in a climate of political, social and economic instability and the demands of the revolutionary track, that are socially rooted, have never been accomplished. Yet the successive governments have been trying to bypass it and re-devote the pre-2011 economic and social options, perhaps in a more oblique approach. Despite this confusion, the level of social explosion has not reached internal civil clashes or destroyed state institutions in a way similar to what happened in other Arab countries that witnessed the so-called Arab Spring, such as Libya and Syria. And this, in my estimation, roots back to several factors, some of which are: Tunisia not being a place for regional and international conflicts neither due to its geographic location nor due to its resources and capabilities, in addition to the lack of potentials for triggering ethnic clashes considering that our society has a relatively homogenous cultural structure.
What is happening on Tunisia at the moment? What are the political, social and economic basis of the protests? What are the people’s demands and what can be the possible outcomes of the uprising? On which level the protests are widespread?
Tunisia is currently witnessing a wave of protests and demonstrations not only in the capital city Tunis but also in different interior regions against the new national financial law of 2018. In fact, the government has opted for some painful, unfair measures that contribute to the impoverishment of the middle class in Tunisia. As a matter of fact, these measures are mainly exerting a form of a tax pressure on the citizen and adding a huge burden on the purchasing power because of the increase in the prices of basic products and the noticeable decrease in subsidies. Protestors generally and youngsters specifically, were faced with repressive practices and an aggressive campaign of arrests even though the protests were peaceful. These aggressive, relatively strong interventions were basically aiming to not only intimidate protestors and worry them but also to stop or at least decrease the frequency and the number of protestors, who were actually defending their rights for a decent life and asking for suspension of certain article in the financial national budget. The governmental reaction could only be understood as a tendency to go back to the era of dictatorship and a trial to restore the former regime’s old methods to suppress the opposition protests and to violate the constitution which states that every citizen has the right for freedom, freedom of expression and freedom to organize and participate in peaceful protests to impose their economic and political choices according to their political background without taking into consideration the citizen’s needs and opinion in such important choices and measures.
In a perspective, is it possible to say that, the current events and the uprising, is the continuation of the 2011 revolution, which is failed to do its duties completely, against the Tunisian people’s socio-economic/class-based interests?
Of course, the events Tunisia is witnessing now fall within the revolutionary course that has started even before 2011 and relatively enhanced in 2011 when the revolution succeeded to take off the head of the old regime. However, the system itself with its background, choices and its directive lines remained the same. As a matter of fact the system is still working in a declared war against the Tunisian population. The main slogan that has gone viral in 2011 protests has been: Work, Freedom and National Dignity.
These national requests has not been achieved so far, and the economic situation has been worsening: Unemployment rates have increased, the Tunisian Dinar is witnessed a huge decline in its economic value, the purchasing power of the citizen has deteriorated, and the national sovereignty is subject to the decisions and instructions of the International Financial Institutions such as IMF , which confirms the failure of the successive governments after 2011 to meet the expectation of the Tunisian population.
How did the – both Islamist and secular – neoliberal ruling parties, such as Nahda and Nida or Afek evaluating the events? Why these IMF related austerity regulations have been imposed to the people?
This governmental coalition of Nahdha and Nidaa does not have a clear program or proposition for radical solutions that may solve a part of the economic problems. Its program is basically focusing on the religious aspect. As for the economic aspects, the government is opting for a liberalized economy that will open up the barriers that were relatively protecting some sensitive sectors from strong competition and monopolies. The debt policy is basically taking into accounts the instructions and the “suggestions” of the international financial institutions which impose economic alternatives despite their failure in different other countries that has gone through the same situation as Tunisia. Their instructions states that subsidies should be decrease to avoid saying abolished, liberalizing the national currency in the financial markets, reducing the recruitments in the public sector and increasing taxes. In other words, the middle class and the public sector workers are in fact paying for the choices and the programs that the successive governments are opting for. These choices have proved their failure and their contribution to the continued deterioration of the economic and social situation in the country. This has negatively affected all social classes, and caused the increase of the poverty rates, deeper marginalization and has negatively impacted social services and the rest of the public and private sectors’ performance and productivity.
Are there any particular political organisations leading the events? Are the demonstrations manipulable or can it fade away? As an important experience of united struggle, what is position of Popular Front in all these? How does your political organisation perceive these protests?
The Popular Front was present through its activists in all the peaceful protests that called for the cancellation of current unfair legislations in the Finance Law 2018. Moreover, we have been following up the discussions for drafting the budget since the first round of negotiations in the financial committee and the house of parliaments. In addition to that, we warned from the dangers of this law and its drastic consequences on the purchasing power for the citizen through our statements and through social media since October 2017. Furthermore, we called the citizens to rally and protest against this law, and we emphasized that this law will be the law of major tensions…
These legitimate protests reflect the harsh situations that the Tunisian citizens are suffering from, and the financial legislation was the drop that flooded the cup and forced the citizens to hit the streets which they will not leave until all their demands are met despite the government’s attempts to hinder through some reforming measurements that they have announced, and perhaps the tip of public demands will rise even after the withdrawal of the legislations of the finance law.
For the Turkish version of interview, click here.