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Comrades, the Dictator has fled and freedom reigns across the land of Tunisia!
Well, almost. President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has fled and maybe en route to Paris, or another as yet uncertain destination. The Prime Minister, who appears to have been in office since the late 1990s has taken over, in some sort of internal coup. This seems to be how it is done in Tunisia, as the fleeing President apparently took over in a similar manner back in 1987.
Events seem to have moved rather quickly in the last 48 hours, as street protests have mounted, the police riot control forces in action and a lot of behind the scenes movement amongst the governmental elites and foreign supporters seems to have taken place. The President tried to offer promises of fresh elections in 6 months, in which he would not stand as well as dismissing his government but the people seem to have long since lost faith in him and were disgusted by his family’s excesses (which were mentioned in the Wikileaks cables). Equally important, the governing elites seem to have lost confidence.
This does not seem to be an Orange Revolution so far, more that a member of the government has arranged a new regime to replace the old one, which he was a member of. It is unknown whether or not this new regime is going to be able to hold. This leaves a lot of uncertainty a to the long term future of the country and of course people are looking to past precedent, namely Iran. So will this be Iran Mk II and we get some sort of Islamist state? Or is this the first of the Arab/North African Velvet/Orange Revolutions?
Religion: 99% Muslim
Economy: GDP per capita - about $9,500
Languages: Arabic, French
Former Colonial Power: France
Rivalry between French and Italian interests in Tunisia culminated in a French invasion in 1881 and the creation of a protectorate. Agitation for independence in the decades following World War I was finally successful in getting the French to recognize Tunisia as an independent state in 1956. The country's first president, Habib BOURGUIBA, established a strict one-party state. He dominated the country for 31 years, repressing Islamic fundamentalism and establishing rights for women unmatched by any other Arab nation. In November 1987, BOURGUIBA was removed from office and replaced by Zine el Abidine BEN ALI in a bloodless coup. BEN ALI is currently serving his fifth consecutive five-year term as president. Tunisia has long taken a moderate, non-aligned stance in its foreign relations. Domestically, it has sought to defuse rising pressure for a more open political society.