Things never stand still in Tunisia. In the past weeks exiled dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was sentenced, in his absence, to ten years imprisonment for unlawful killing. He is hiding from justice in Saudi Arabia.
In the elections in October last year, the mainstream Islamist party Ennahda got 38 percent of the seats in parliament.
It has formed a coalition with two centre, secular parties. These two parties have very little say in what goes on.
Ennahda has run into many problems. There have been riots and clashes between conservative Islamists and the state. There are daily strikes in Tunisia and there has been a general strike in some of the mining areas.
Just last week there was a general strike in the northwestern area around Jendouba. This very poor area relies on agriculture. Around 90 percent of workers in the area took part, demanding secure jobs and proper development programmes.
The global economic crisis and the flight of foreign investors—whose lives had been easy under Ben Ali—have hit Tunisia hard. Unemployment has spiralled since the revolution and Jendouba is one of the areas hardest hit.
The press has given a lot of attention to the actions of Salafist Islamists in Tunisia. But the main problems facing ordinary people are economic. The country has very few natural resources and high inflation due to capitalists profiteering from the situation.
The government faces significant political problems. We say “easy come, easy go”—the votes that Ennahda won easily in the last elections do not represent long-lasting support.
The areas where Ennahda’s vote was strongest in October’s elections are now the areas hit by the general strikes. The workers and poor who voted for them are striking for change.
Workers rioted in a suburb of the capital Tunis. They had been promised new jobs, but these went instead to supporters of the regime from miles away.
So nepotism and corruption are still factors in Tunisia, but today people strike and protest against them.
The police and their thugs attacked the port protesters in their homes and threw tear gas through windows. This caused a huge scandal. Activists posted videos online showing people being beaten in the street.
An iconic moment in one shows a woman saying, “We voted for them and now they treat us like this”. That resonates with a lot of ordinary people in Tunisia.
People swear they will bring down Ennahda like they brought down Ben Ali. There is a lot of anger but a lack of organised alternative.
The leader of the Tunisian Communist party came second in a recent poll for the most trusted politician. First was the current president, a human rights activist who opposed Ben Ali.
The Communist Party has spoken out against the attacks and repression, and stood with the Islamists against persecution by elements of the old regime.
It sees itself as part of the movement. But things are not standing still in Tunisia. We have brought down two governments and will do it again.
We need to build and maintain a movement on the streets and in the workplaces to give voice to this discontent and push the revolution forward.