Veteran leader breathes new life in Tunisia

New prime minister promises government within two days and terms previous administration a &quotgang of saboteurs&quot.

    Listening and watching him speak, you wouldn’t think that Beji Caid Sebsi is 84 years old. This veteran politician, who served in office under Habib Bourguiba, father of Tunisian independence, is breathing new life into Tunisian politics.

    A free press is a very new thing here and there were chaotic scenes at the press conference at the presidential palace in Carthage, as everyone, including about 40 ministers, was packed into a rather small room.

    After calming the photographers and a throng of journalists, Sebsi spoke directly to people using language many are not used to from their politicians, speaking conversationally as if to a friend.

    "There will be a new government in two days" he announced, his priority he said was to “restore security”.

    And he called the previous administration a "gang of saboteurs".

    He said Ben Ali, the former president, had "committed treason by leaving the country without a farewell”.

    The next crucial date will be July 24th, that is when elections will be held to vote in the constitutional committee that will rewrite the constitution.

    General Rachid Ammar, Tunisia’s chief of staff of the armed forces, was sitting about half a metre away from me, willing to shake the hand of Al Jazeera but unwilling to give any comments or information away.

    His presence and the adorable looks he received from many there, is a sign of just how important the military is now in Tunisia.

    Ordinary people here accept their role, preferring their presence to that of the police or National Guard.

    An indication that these developments have satisfied at least some Tunisians, the tents at the Kasbah where hundreds of Tunisians protested for weeks are now being taken down, and coaches are waiting nearby to take the many young people who took part in the uprising back to their towns and villages.

    I have been here from the beginning of all of this, but it is only now that I feel that at least here in Tunis, the country could be turning a corner.


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