Yesterday's assassination of Chokri Belaid in Tunis has had a profound impact on the situation in Tunisia, far exceeding the political clout of Belaid's leftist party: the Prime Minister says he is dissolving the government and creating a technocratic Cabinet of national unity; the leftist and some other secular parties are withdrawing from the Constituent Assembly, and the country is rocked by disorders.
Over the two years since the Tunisian Revolution, I think the Western commentariat has been rather complacent about Tunisia, myself included. It's a small country, one that's always seemed peaceful and comfortably Westernized. Riots over wearing niqab in the university, or violent attacks on art galleries, bars, or Sufi saint's tombs seemed to be growing pains, the actions of a radical minority. Egypt, so much bigger and so much more central, was also far more dramatic, with dozens dead just in the latest rounds of clashes.
The secularists were warning that the dominant al-Nahda was a wolf in sheep's clothing, and even came up with a secret video of Rached Ghannouchi, al-Nahda's seemingly moderate leader, suggesting alternative agendas. My last post on the Salafi-vs-Sufi saints vandalism, on the burning of the tomb of Sidi Bou Said, was something of a personal complaint since "they" attacked the place where I spent my honeymoon. Lately the transition process has bogged down over negotiations for a Cabinet reshuffle, but that, too, seemed routine: God knows, we understand partisan gridlock here in ...[view whole blog post ]