Skip to main content

A new Tunisian president takes power

A new president was just inaugurated in Tunisia:
Rights activist and former opposition leader Moncef Marzouki became Tunisia's first elected president since the revolution.

"I am proud to carry the most precious of responsibilities, that of being the guarantor of the people, the state and the revolution," said the 66-year-old Marzouki on Monday, wearing his trademark oversize glasses and his usual grey suit with white shirt and no tie.

Marzouki was elected with 153 votes in the 217-member constituent assembly, with three of the 202 deputies present voting against, two abstaining and 44 opposition members casting blank ballots.
The election seems to have gone off quite well. Now comes the real challenge. Overthrowing an oppressive regime is often the easy part. While it can be terribly bloody to face down a dictator, it's relatively easy to maintain focus. The goals are easy to understand and widely supported.

Let me be clear: I am in no way diminishing the courage or the achievements of the Tunisian opposition. They have done a very great thing. But instituting a democracy on the bones of a dictatorship is a tough proposition. The democratic norms are weak among the political class. The incoming administration has little governing experience, and usually has tremendous credibility from their work overthrowing the oppressors. If they make mistakes leading to a loss of popularity, they can be tempted to leverage large majorities in the assembly to consolidate a new oppressive regime. This is basically what happened to countries all across Africa after the end of colonialism. Ghana, Zaire, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Uganda, Ivory Coast and others, all fell into close to the same trap.

On the other hand, the atmosphere for democratic institutions is far better than it was back in the 50s and 60s. The Soviet Union's manifest failure means that Tunisia is far less likely to try disastrous socialist experiments. The internet (assuming the US government doesn't break it first) makes organizing and transparency easier. Many of the previously mentioned African countries (like Ghana) have since rebounded, so the new government can learn from their mistakes and their successes. For even more positive examples, there's always tiny Botswana, one of my favorite countries, which managed to successfully transition from colonialism to a representative democracy. "Washington Consensus" capitalism has been badly discredited; the government is less likely to try revolutionary Thatcherite mass privatizations right out of the gate.

The critical issue will be if the populace remains watchful of the government. If the leaders feel pressure to provide for their citizens, then things have a good chance of working out. So far I remain hopeful.

Note: expanded and clarified.


Popular posts from this blog

Why Did Reality Winner Leak to the Intercept?

So Reality Winner, former NSA contractor, is in federal prison for leaking classified information — for five years and three months, the longest sentence of any whistleblower in history. She gave documents on how Russia had attempted to hack vendors of election machinery and software to The Intercept , which completely bungled basic security procedures (according to a recent New York Times piece from Ben Smith, the main fault lay with Matthew Cole and Richard Esposito ), leading to her capture within hours. Winner recently contracted COVID-19 in prison, and is reportedly suffering some lingering aftereffects. Glenn Greenwald has been furiously denying that he had anything at all to do with the Winner clusterfuck, and I recently got in an argument with him about it on Twitter. I read a New York story about Winner, which clearly implies that she was listening to the Intercepted podcast of March 22, 2017 , where Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill expressed skepticism about Russia actually b

Varanus albigularis albigularis

That is the Latin name for the white-throated monitor lizard , a large reptile native to southern Africa that can grow up to two meters long (see pictures of one at the Oakland Zoo here ). In Setswana, it's called a "gopane." I saw one of these in my village yesterday on the way back from my run. Some kids from school found it in the riverbed and tortured it to death, stabbing out its eyes, cutting off its tail, and gutting it which finally killed it. It seemed to be a female as there were a bunch of round white things I can only imagine were eggs amongst the guts. I only arrived after it was already dead, but they described what had happened with much hilarity and re-enactment. When I asked why they killed it, they said it was because it would eat their chickens and eggs, which is probably true, and because it sucks blood from people, which is completely ridiculous. It might bite a person, but not unless threatened. It seems roughly the same as killing wolves tha

Caffeine Is Not a Bioweapon

I got into a discussion with Yves Smith about caffeine here , and somehow my comment got eaten, so I'd like to finish it up here. She said about this Raw Story piece about a girl who allegedly died from drinking two Monster drinks in two days, "The FDA lapse here is terrible. Caffeine is extremely toxic. We just happen to get highly diluted doses in coffee and tea." I commented: Yves, your implication about caffeine is incorrect on several levels. Most Monster drinks have about 10 mg of caffeine per fluid ounce, which is much less than even drip coffee (18 mg/oz) and WAY less than espresso (51 mg/oz). ( Source ) The whole idea of dilution is misguided in any case. The relevant measurement for caffeine intoxication (and most poisoning generally) is the total amount taken, not the concentration. Concentration is something to worry about, as it can make a lethal dose easier to take on, but the main concern there is pure caffeine pills, not energy drinks which are mostl