“Democracy is at a crossroads in Tunisia”

Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali on the current situation in his country

14/03/2012 | 17:00 - 18:30 | DGAP | Members only

Speech

Category: Tunisia, Democratization/System Change

Tunisia has a good chance to become a democratic, peaceful and stabil state, and a good example for the whole region. However, this development will be at risk, if the government does not meet the population’s high expectations to find a quick solution for the social problems, said Hamadi Jebali, Prime Minister of Tunisia, during his speech at the DGAP on March 14th, 2012. Therefore, the West has to design a “Marshall Plan” to support his country in the creation of new jobs.

The Tunisians are proud of the fact that they got rid of the dictator by their own means, without a military coup, bloodshed or support from outside the country, said Jebali, who himself had been in prison for 15 years during the years of Ben Ali’s regime. Thereby, they rebuted the Western prejudice that the Arabic-Islamic culture is a good basis for dictatorships. “This has been a revolution for the dignity of men, political freedom and social justice.”

The government is planning to implement the plans of the revolution. “But we are facing enormous problems,” said Jebali. Though the dictator has abdicated, the old tyrannic system is still in existance, for example on the administrative level and within the military. Moreover, a conflict of interests between the revolutionary parties has erupted, and extremists on the left and the right are causing unrest on the streets.

“These people do not believe in democracy or that they can have a future within a democratic system,” said the Vice President of the Islamist Ennahda Party. The increasing numbers of violent Salafists and Dschihadists are the most dangerous developments, since these groups believe that freedom and democracy contradict the rules of Islam. Instead of violence, Tunisia needs a culture of dialoge to approach the problems.

The most important task is to find a solution to the socio-economic problems, said the Tunisian Prime Minister. In Tunisia, 800.000 people are unemployed, 200.000 of them with a college education. “They want jobs, houses and a better future. And all of them demand to change everything at once.” His government, however, is not able to satisfy all these needs all of a sudden, because of the absence of material and natural resources. Thus, democracy is at a crossroads in Tunisia.

His country needs Western help to create jobs, to support vocational trainings and to undertake an administrative reform, said Jebali. Furthermore, Tunisia needs Western investments to build up its construction industry and the infrastructure. Especially Germany, with its dual vocational education, could contribute a lot to a significant improvement in these fields. To achieve these aims, Tunisia will need investments in the amount of one billion Euro for a period of one or two years.

Jebali, a graduate ingeneer himself, is convinced that transformation of Tunisia will lead to success. There is a moderate Islamic movement that originated in the country itself, an educated leadership and middle class, a functioning civil society and an army that is not politically tinged. Therefore, European investments in his country are “investments in democracy, stability and security.”

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