Opposition leaders excluded

Political terrain may be opening for the Tunisian opposition, but Communists and Islamists are fighting against exclusi

    For all the talk of unity, two opposition parties have been excluded from the national coalition government that was announced yesterday, with no immediate prospect of being integrated into what is being portrayed by some as a democratic opening.

    The Communist Workers’ Party of Tunisia (PCOT) is one of those parties. Simply being a member of the PCOT has for many years meant the danger of facing a prison sentence.

    Hamma Hammami (pictured, right), the party’s spokesperson, was only freed from prison on Friday.

    "This is a national government which has nothing national about it,” Hammami, told Al Jazeera. “It’s intended to conserve the old regime in power with all of its authoritarian institutions in place.”

    “This is why people are taking to the street with a new slogan ‘we don’t want the RCD’,” he said, referring to one of the slogans taken up on Monday’s protests.

    For Hammami, like many other opposition leaders, former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s hasty departure is nowhere near enough. He called for “the party of Ben Ali” to be disbanded completely, along with all its “repressive apparatuses”.

    He called for a provisional government to be established to help pave the way for the transition towards a truly democratic republic.

    The communist leader also had words for the Tunisian Islamist movement.  He argued that the uprising, which had its one month anniversary on Monday, was a secular one, and called on the Ennahdha party to accept this and not to bring “polemics over theology” into the conversation.

    “We want to keep the people united over these aspirations,” Hammami said. “We’re calling on other parties not to divide the people.”

    As for Tunisia’s largest Islamist party, it is not only not included in the government. Its leader is being denied the right to return to Tunisian soil.

    Rached Ghannouchi, the leader of al-Nahda, announced on Saturday that he would be returning to Tunisia from his exile in London to join the unity government.

    But Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi said today in a statement that there’s no way his namesake - no relation - can come back to his homeland unless a 1991 prison sentence is lifted.


    The news that Slim Amamou – known as @slim404 in the Twittersphere - has gone from imprisoned opposition blogger to government minister is drawing huge attention amongst online activists. Days after his release from prison, Amamou was appointed minister of youth and sport. Not surprisingly, he faced a storm of tweets from journalists requesting interviews.

    And I spoke with Azyz Amamy this morning, the first phone contact we have had since our interview the night before his arrest. We’ll be meeting later in the week, stay tuned for our interview about his internet activism, arrest and what has happened since he was freed.


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