Aspects of Government As Personified Through the Ideology of One Man
Zine el-Abidine Bin Ali took over leadership as the president of Tunisia in the year 1987 after “ousting his predecessor, the octogenarian Habib Bourguiba who ruled Tunisia since 1956” (Moore, 1988, Page 180). According to Hermassi (1995), this leader came in to power with two ideas on his mind for his reign; “democratization and national reconciliation” (Page 109). According to Sadiki [b] (2002), Tunisia as a country meets, to a large extend, with the Western approval for being “a post of moderation, stability and liberal politics” (page 497). But to a particular level, there exist a “myth” in regard to the “liberal politics” of the country (Anonymous: Zine of the times, 1991). During the Bourguiba regime, “mono-party” rule was “the order of the day” (Krichen, 1992, Page 32). When Bin Ali took over from Bourguiba, Tunisia turned out to have an “electoral democracy” under his reign (Murphy, 1999; Smith, 2011). But, as indicated by Sadiki [a] (2002), “the resulting electoral regime is one that has been carefully controlled by the state is largely constrictive, uncompetitive, and illiberal” (Page 497).
The Power Base of the Tunisian President as Undisputed Leader
The “routinisation” and “consolidation” of the hold of Bin Ali on power has brought about much more stability as compared to the situation which was there during the final years of Bourguiba’s reign (Ware, 1986, Zubaida, S. (1989.). The stability came about at the cost of “political pluralism” (Chaabane, 1997). Tunisia tends to have set up credibility in the field of “economic management” (King, 1998, and Economist Intelligence Unit, 1997).
However, in carrying out a comparison between economic liberalization and political liberalization, it is established that economic liberalization has acquired more “momentum” (Sadiki, 2003). Bin Ali used to promise democratizing Tunisia but this was never actually fulfilled (Davis, 2011). According to Zisenwine (2004), Tunisia has stood above the neighboring countries such as Algeria and Libya with its “pro-western foreign policies and its progressive social and economic programs” (Par. 1).
The per capita income of this country is the highest in the region (North Africa- not including Libya), giving a reflection of investment in such key sectors as education. However, the political system of the country has been stagnant and remained at the same point for a long time, beginning from independence time (Zisenwine, 2009).
Standards of Living in Tunisia
There exist unfavorable economic conditions in Tunisia. The unfavorable conditions, which include high levels of unemployment and lack of political freedom, is what pushed the unemployed graduate, just like many other youths, to the walls.
According to Anonymous (Tunisia: President flees anger, 2011,), the unemployment rate in Tunisia stands at 14 percent. But in considering the youths alone, the unemployment rate stands at 31 percent. Anonymous (Tunisia: President flees anger, 2011) points out that, “the income share of the top 10% is approximately 32 %, and the top 20% of the population controls 47% of Tunisia income” (Page 18932).
More so, according to Anonymous (Tunisia: President flees anger, 2011), the International Monetary Fund gives description of the Tunisian government management of the economy as well as the economic growth, which is not even; benefiting the northern towns as well as the coastal ones more than interior towns and other regions of the nation as; “prudent macroeconomic management”….”the country’s key challenge is to boost job-generating growth and lower unemployment rates” (Anonymous: Tunisia: President flees anger, 2011, Page 18932)
It is believed that the President and his family together with a few elite groups are the ones who control the main sectors of the economy to extreme levels (Daragahi, 2011). To emphasize on this point, Anonymous (Tunisia: President flees anger, 2011) points out that that the wikileaks cable from the US embassy in the country gave out a message that “the perception of increasing corruption and the persistent rumors of shady backroom dealings has a negative impact on the economy, regardless of the veracity” (Page 2).
Strength of economic and educational development
Even if there are various problems in regard to Tunisia’s economy, not everything about the economy of Tunisia is unwelcoming. The national economy of this country, in relative terms, is wide and diverse, having such important sectors as mining, agriculture, manufacturing and tourism.
Beginning from the middle of the 1980s, the Tunisian government has privatized, either in part or entirely, over 160 companies which were formerly owned by the state (Bibi and Chatti, 2005). The country also has good infrastructure including thirteen airports (McDonald-Gibson, 2011).
In the course of the last twenty years, Tunisia has had an average yearly GDP growth of 5 percent (in the course of Bin Ali’s rule) (Anonymous: Tunisia: President flees anger, 2011).
According to the IMF report, the economic growth of the country could go even beyond an average of 5 percent over the period of the coming five years as long as “policies and reforms planned by the authorities are aimed at enhancing Tunisia’s competitiveness, developing new markets, and supporting new sources of growth in sectors, with high added value bear fruits” (Anonymous: Tunisia: President flees anger, 2011, Page 18933). The education sector in the country is fairly developed but there is need to improve the system in order for it to meet the world standers; and especially the universities (Waltz, 1995).
The Relationships with Foreign Powers
In the course of Bin Ali’s rule, the foreign policy consisted ensuring the maintenance of a “balance between close relationships with Western Europe and the U.S along with inter-Arab cooperation” (Anonymous: Tunisia foreign policy, 2011, Par. 1).. More so, support as well as trade partnerships were sought from the Asian nations. France has stayed to be a leading trade partner of Tunisia which is closely followed by Italy.
France had formerly colonized Tunisia but the two countries have still kept links with each other even after Tunisia becoming independent. The relationship established between these two countries has been there for a longer time and they understand each other better and they can deal in various trading activities. The country has also established positive relations with countries in Asia and they nave been engaging in trading activities (Samuel, 2011).
Laws and Civil Liberties in the Country
According to Deeb (2002), even if it is clear that Tunisia as a nation has made great efforts in ensuring liberalization of the political system, and is seen as a country having a good track record in the Arab World regarding women’s rights, there still exist several problems to the country’s “genuine electoral choices”.
There exist a number of written restrictions as well as unwritten ones on their choices which makes it quite hard to have “free and fair” elections. More so, in Tunisia, there exist some restrictions that are put in to force, which hinder operations of human rights movements.
An example is given by Deeb (2002) of the “Tunisia Human Rights League” that had its vice president taken to jail in the year 1998. The restrictions are also imposed on NGOs like the “National Council for Liberties” whose registration was turned down. Following this, an environment dominated by fear to come up with political choices that may not get government approval has been set up.
Reasons for the Occurrence of Popular Discontent in Tunisia
The Tunisian government was overthrown on 14th January 2011 and the president had to run away from the country to Saudi Arabia (Brom, 2011; Diaro, 2011, Cohen, 2011; “United Nations – Alliance of Civilizations”; 2011; Reuters, 2011).
Bin Ali’s government was overthrown because it failed to control “mass demonstrations” which commenced at the time a youth, who was not employed and was working as a peddler, set himself on fire after the police officers took away his cart which he was using to obtain his daily bread. (Brom, 2011, Amara, 2011, Anonymous: Tunisia: President flees anger, 2011, “BBC Monitoring Middle East”, (c), 2010, Oluwafunminiyi, 2011).
This act lit up anger among people who went out to the streets, demonstrating in protest. The protests spread all over the country. These protests resulted from “pent up frustrations over unemployment, high prices and political repression” (Anonymous: Tunisia: President flees anger, 2011, Page 18931).
The only thing the president had to say about this in his speech presented on 13 January 2011, was that he was sorry and promised to make things better but He was removed from power the following day (“BBC Monitoring Middle East”, 2011 (a); (“BBC Monitoring Middle East” [d]; Oluwafunminiyi, 2011). This implies that the president did not facilitate effective negation with the relevant parties to overcome the conflict that was there.
A good leader should be ready to negotiate with the parties with whom he is in conflict. It is pointed out by Hackman and Johnson (2008) “negotiation comes in when leaders must influence those who disagree with them…the goal is to reach a conclusion that is satisfying to both sides. Negotiation consists of back-and-forth communication aimed at reaching a joint decision when people are in disagreement” (Page 180).
The Problems that need to be addressed in Tunisia
There are several problems that need to be addressed in Tunisia. Among these problems, we have lack of employment and especially for the youths, unequal distribution of resources, and violation of people’s (mostly women’s) personal and political rights among others. The leadership in Tunisia has not been a fair one.
Resources have been concentrated in some parts in the country, leaving other parts without anything. Some few people in the country have been controlling the key sectors of the economy. The people who have been controlling these sectors are the president and his family, together with a few other wealthy individuals in the country. More so, in this country, the leadership has not been facilitating power sharing.
There has been no realization of the fact that, when people jointly try to find solutions to the problems facing the society, it is easier to find solutions. Lack of commitment to find solutions that face the citizens is actually what brought about discontent among people, resulting in the overthrow of the government.
The kind of Leader I would want to be
I would want to be a democratic leader and this is the kind of leader Tunisia needs. “Democratic leaders engage in supportive communication that facilitates interaction between leaders and followers” (Hackman and Johnson, 2008 p.42).
By a leader adopting the democratic communication style, he or she would encourage follower involvement and participation in the determining of goals and procedures. He or she assumes that the followers are able to make informed decisions. He doesn’t have any feeling of intimidation when suggestions are presented to him by the follows but holds a belief that the contributions that are made by the followers improve the overall quality of decision making.
By Tunisia having a democratic leader, this will facilitate formation of a political party that has the potential as well as “intellectual resources”, as Bassma (2011) points out, “to evolve towards a model of Turkey’s Justice and Development Party, by softening its discourse and positions to adapt to the mainstream Tunisians who have a fairly clear consensus on the social model and the values they want” (Bassma, 2011, Page 3).
This leader will ensure the women’s legal status and their personal rights are protected. He will ensure there are equalities in work as well as representation in the government institutions.
He will also be able to carry out genuine reforms in regard to have democratic elections (Meyer-Resende and O’grandy, 2011). In general terms, in the case where we have a democratic leader, there will be formation of a government that will enable “participation of all forces and meet the objectives of the popular revolution” (Anonymous: Opposition party quits new Tunisia government, 2011, Page 1).
To ensure national unity, the politicians who are in the opposition parties if need be, as Anonymous (Tunisia pins hopes on new rulers, 2011) points out, have to join the government, “parties burned under president Bin Ali…have to be allowed to operate and the repressive laws of the past have to be swept away” (Page 22) and there should also be freedom of the media (“BBC Monitoring Middle East” (b), 2011). Having a democratic leader in power, this will be realized ion Tunisia.
How to Deploy Resources
There is need to have equal distribution of resources among people and regions. This is a weakness that has been there in Tunisia causing some people to languish in poverty while others enjoy wealth. The Northern towns and the coastal ones have enjoyed more resources than other regions in the country during Bin Ali’s rule and this need to stop. The idea of a few wealthy elites having excessive control on the economy should cease.
The common trend that has been seen in Tunisia, while Bin Ali was in power, of the president together with his close family controlling the key sectors of the economy should cease if good leadership has to be realized. The specific needs of all the people in the country in all the regions should be identified.
This calls for a need to have a selfless leader who will put the needs of others ahead of his or her own. All the relevant information should be gathered about the needs of every region and various groups of people in the society. This will ensure there will be fair and equal distribution of resources in the country.
Assistance Needed from Foreign Powers
The foreign countries need to give assistance to Tunisia in terms of investing in the country and providing foreign aid. The U.N needs to send advisors to the country to give the necessary assistance that may be needed by the government to break away from the unfavorable traditions of the last regime. More so, IMF and the World Bank and other “international lending agencies” are supposed to provide credit to the country to boost business activities, This will help in solving the problem of unemployment.
More so, Tunisia is supposed to be given foreign assistance so that the country can be able to upgrade their curricula in the education sector and this will play a major role in offering educational opportunities for the youth in the country. The local universities are supposed to receive funds from foreign countries and also partner with the foreign universities in order for them to improve the education system.
These attempts will play a major role in the provision of the crucial “economic and social underpinnings for the Tunisian economy” (Davis, 2011). Through this move, the country will also be able to send out a powerful signal or message to the rest of the “authoritarian states” in the Arab World that it is very possible to achieve democratic changes in this region, “an assertion that it suffers from a democracy deficit notwithstanding” (Davis, 2011, Par. 16).
Steps to be Taken by the Leader to Change Tunisia for Better
As stated earlier, in order for Tunisia to realize positive change, it need to have a democratic leader. Such a leader will be ready and willing to deal with all the problems facing people in the country by taking necessary measures. A democratic leader does not have self-interest and puts the interests of his or her people before anything else.
He or she is ready to take other people’s suggestions. Following this, he will be able to ensure there is equal distribution of resources in the country without favoring particular regions or individuals. He or she will also put in place a proper democratic system where we have free and fair elections.
He will also be able to find out, from others, the best ways possible of creating job opportunities for his or her people in order to take the necessary measures. Where there is need, foreign assistance in all possible areas will be considered by the leader, especially in regard to foreign aid and investment in the country and improving the education sector.
The leader should facilitate power sharing. By a leader facilitating sharing of power, abuse of power is prevented. “The individuals who do not share power are free to project their insecurities, fears, hostility on others, and to further their interests at the expense of followers”( Hackman and Johnson, 2008, p.148).
The individuals who are powerful in most cases ignore the needs of other people. They pay less attention to identifying other people’s feelings. As a result, these people “are more likely to hold and act on harmful stereotypes and particularly to minority group members” (Hackman and Johnson, 2008, p.148). But on the contrary, the leaders who distribute power have a lower likelihood of abusing power, to take advantage of their followers, to overlook the needs of other people, or to stereotype.
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