Those of you who contacted me, concerned for our safety after my post last Sunday will be happy to hear that this week Tunis was perfectly quiet and safe when we rolled up on Sunday morning. The kids were a bit disappointed with the diminishment in “army men,” but I can’t really say I shared their sentiments. And, as a result of the protests last week, Tunisia is now the proud owner of its third caretaker government in two months. I don’t know where they keep getting all these new government ministers. I’m half expecting a call with an invitation to join the cabinet myself.
So far (one day into its administration) this one is looking pretty good. The new 84-year-old prime minister is left over from the regime of Habib Bourghiba, who liberated Tunisia from French colonialism (I guess maybe it was hard to find someone younger who had not been associated with the 23-year Ben Ali reign). As one of his government’s first acts, he’s finally gone ahead and disbanded Ben Ali’s political police and the state security system (aka the evil twins). These two organizations were Ben Ali’s mechanism for spying on and oppressing the people of Tunisia, so folks here are happy to see the end of them, and view it as a positive step toward real change. The new ministers who have been appointed to fill cabinet vacancies are what everyone is falling all over themselves to call “technocrats,” i.e. leaders who are educated specialists interested only in solving problems (as opposed to the dreadful and currently unmentionable opposite, politicians). As far as I can ascertain, the idea is sort of like a Platonic philosopher-king, only they’re intended to be quite temporary in this case. The new government has promised that none of its current members will be allowed to run in the elections, for which a date has finally been set. Hooray! Mark your calendars for July 24th.
Kudos to the Tunisians for keeping at it, and all working together (more or less) to move closer and closer to a free and open democratic society completely of their own making. And for rendering politics just so interesting I can’t help blogging about it. It’s not over yet, by any means. But I think they are definitely on to something.