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Analyst: Tunisians Want 'Genuine' Democracy

Protesters burn a photo of former Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali during a demonstration in Tunis, 24 Jan 2011

A university professor said Tunisian protesters are fed up with the previous regime and will continue to demand the “total” removal of its officials to begin what he described as a new and “genuine” democratic dispensation.

Sadok Belaid, professor at the School of Legal, Political and Social Sciences of Tunis, says the protesters know exactly what they want and do not, in his words, have any complicated ideological or extremist preoccupation.

Sadok Belaid believes that all hold-over ministers from the previous government should resign
Sadok Belaid believes that all hold-over ministers from the previous government should resign

“I hope that, finally, the present government will hear the voice of the Tunisian people and admit that those ministers, who have been nominated by the dominant party, the party of [ex-President] [Zine El Abidine] Ben Ali should resign because they don’t anymore enjoy the confidence of the people,” said Belaid.

“Most public opinion thinks that these ministers do not represent anything, politically speaking. So, I think that the government should take the very important step to make these people [ministers] to go away,” he added.

Tunisia's army chief, Rashid Ammar, has warned that a "power vacuum" could bring back a dictatorship, as pressure continues to mount on the interim government. He also vowed the army would protect the "revolution" and warned that a political vacuum could hurt the new government.

Belaid said there is no chance that Muslim extremism could infiltrate and take hold, as some in the Arab world suggest. He said with there is a growing possibility that the protesters’ demand for an independent body to organize a credible vote will be met.

“We are not very far from such [an] initiative because I think that the government is in a very uncomfortable situation and that it is under popular pressure, which is stronger and stronger, and that the government should think about that idea of a committee of wise men who will take charge in order to accomplish that very necessary urgent step, which is the election of a new president for Tunisia. I think that, sometime during this week, something will happen,” said Belaid.

Hundreds of people have taken to the streets in recent days to demand that holdovers from President Ben Ali's administration be kept out of a new government.

On Monday, police in Tunisia fired tear gas at anti-government protesters to try to break up demonstrations outside the prime minister's office.

Meanwhile, in France, the Paris state prosecutor's office announced Monday it had opened an investigation into the property assets that Mr. Ben Ali holds in the country. Tunisians have said the former president plundered the country's wealth during his 23-year reign.

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