Tunisia: Will Ben Ali’s Resignation Inspire Revolutions In Other Arab Countries?

Today, in a completely dramatic and unexpected turn of events, Tunisian autocratic President Ben Ali was forced out of office by the will of the Tunisian people. He quit his post on Friday night, panicked and fled the country defeated by the Tunisian popular uprising. The protests started a few weeks ago, originally triggered by rising food prices and food shortage. The protests quickly expanded and became more about social justice, freedom of expression and denouncing the corruption of Ben Ali’s regime. On Friday, after Ben Ali’s resignation, prime minister Mohammed Ghannouchi announced that he will take over as interim leader of the nation in turmoil.

Ben Ali had been in office for 23 years, and he is currently in Malta according to reports from the French press. Ben Ali’s quick and unexpected departure came shortly after the dissolution of his own government on Friday morning, and his call to hold elections in six months after declaring a state of national emergency.

Tunisia opposition parties, both legal and banned by Ben Ali, had called on the leader to resign.

“We demand that Ben Ali go and a provisional government be set up and put in charge with organizing free election in six months,” said the parties in a join declaration during  a press conference held in France.

Weeks of clashes, which started  in mid-December 2010, have left at least 66 people dead. In the last two days, Ben Ali said he had ordered police not to fire live rounds at demonstrators. In a larger picture, the historical events unfolding in Tunisia, which can now be called more than just an uprising but a revolution, should serve as a warning for the autocrats ruling the Arab world.

On Friday, the current food price protests and social unrest gripping North Africa and the Middle-East reached Jordan. Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Amman, Karak and other Jordanian cities to protest unemployment, rampant poverty and the sharp increase of gas and basic food prices. The crowds called for the government to be ousted.

“Jordan is not only for the rich. Beware of our starvation and fury,” read one of the banner. “Down with (PM) Rifai’s government. Unify yourselves because the government wants to eat your flesh,” the protesters chanted amid a heavy police presence.

The success of Tunisians in toppling their autocratic and corrupt ruler Ben Ali is likely to be an inspiration  for Arabs in Morocco, Jordan, Libya, Syria, Egypt, and of course Saudi Arabia to challenge their respective autocratic and corrupt ruling elites.


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