News / Africa

US Sees Political Progress in Tunisia Despite Turmoil

State Department says it thinks new unity government making progress toward political reform despite continuing disputes over its make-up

Tunisian PM Mohamed Ghannouchi arrives to announce a national unity government in Tunis, 17 Jan 2011
Tunisian PM Mohamed Ghannouchi arrives to announce a national unity government in Tunis, 17 Jan 2011

The U.S. State Department said Tuesday it thinks Tunisia’s new unity government is making progress toward political reform despite continuing disputes over its make-up. U.S. officials believe the events of the past week in Tunisia, in which authoritarian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was driven from power, have implications for the region.

The State Department is downplaying the continuing turmoil in Tunisia’s interim administration, and says it believes the country’s politicians are making progress toward a credible electoral process.

Four ministers, three of them from the country’s trade union movement, resigned Tuesday, only a day after being appointed, complaining that the transitional government includes too many holdovers from the ousted Ben Ali government.

The new leadership has promised parliamentary and presidential elections within six months through no dates have been set.

Briefing reporters, State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley said the United States is closely monitoring developments and believes the interim government is moving in the right direction despite what he described as political "jockeying."

Key players in Tunisia

Zine El Abidine Ben Ali

Ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali ruled Tunisia for more than two decades. He fled to Saudi Arabia on January 14.

Mohamed Ghannouchi

Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi is a close ally of the ousted president. He announced a new unity government this week.

Fouad Mebazaa

Fouad Mebazaa was sworn in as Tunisia's interim president last week. H previously served as the speaker of parliament.

Najib Chebbi

Najib Chebbi is the founder of the largest and most credible opposition group, the Progressive Democratic Party.

Moncek Marzouki

Moncek Marzouki is the head of the small Congress for the Republic party. The formerly exiled political activist and opposition leader returned to the country Tuesday.

"I think the interim government in Tunisia is moving ahead," he said. "They have taken some steps to begin the process of reform. They’re opening up space for the media to actually report on what’s going on. They have brought some opposition leaders into the government. Obviously there’s a debate going on as to whether more needs to be done. There is a process underway inside Tunisia and we will be looking to see if there are ways in which we can provide support."

Public protests drove President Ben Ali from power Friday, only a day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, at a political forum in Qatar, said that many Arab governments risked “sinking into the sand” unless they liberalized their political systems and economies.

In his comments here, spokesman Crowley sidestepped a question as to whether the United States is worried about a chain reaction of friendly Arab leaders being deposed. But he said governments in the region need to be responsive to public needs and concerns.

"There is this pent-up desire for reform in the region," he said. "It is important for governments to listen to their people, and it important for governments to respond to their people. We want to see political reform occur. Governments are hard-pressed, obviously, to create political, social and economic opportunity for their people. We are a partner in this process, but clearly it is important for governments to listen to their people and to take affirmative steps to meet the aspirations of their people."

Crowley said the situation on the ground in Tunisia has improved somewhat in the last two days, but that the United States Tuesday conducted an evacuation flight from Tunis to Rabat  of 70 U.S. diplomatic dependents and private citizens.

The action was in keeping with a travel alert for Tunisia issued by the State Department Sunday, which advised U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to the North African country, and announced an "authorized departure" of family members of U.S. diplomats.

NEW: Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs