A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Question Number One: What Happens to the RCD?

Mohammed Ghannouchi proved to be, as I guessed, a transitional President of Tunisia, though I didn't necessarily expect it to be less than one day. The Constitutional Council has installed the Speaker of Parliament and also declared the Presidency vacant (necessary since Ben Ali never actually resigned). The new President in turn named Ghannouchi PM again and asked him to form a unity government of all political parties and elements.

But so far, all the major players are from the ruling Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD), the all-pervasive party that dominates Tunisian life. Unless its monopoly is truly dismantled, the jasmine revolution may not amount to genuine change. This I suspect is the real question facing the Tunisians on the morning(s) after: not what the role of social media was (that preoccupies Western bloggers right now) or whether the Revolution could spread elsewhere in the Arab world (that preoccupies Arab bloggers and, presumably in a wholly different way, Arab regimes). A Tunisia without the RCD would be a wholly different place. A Tunisia with it may not look all that different.

The RCD is the current incarnation of the old Neo-Destour of Bourguiba, who made it virtually omnipresent, with party representatives in your workplace, on your block, and in all aspects of life. The RCD under Ben Ali has sometimes taken a back seat to the police state apparatus, but remained a powerful engine of political organization. It will not easily become just another political party in a multi-party system, by bringing other elements into a coalition. (And what to do about the Islamists of the banned Al-Nahda?) What the interim government puts together will tell us a lot about how much things are really going to change. But the streets are still seething by most accounts, and I'm not sure that window dressing will persuade the crowds, now that there's blood in the water.


Anonymous said...

Thawra or inqilaab?

Michael Collins Dunn said...

That is exactly the question. I've cited it in a later post.