President’s Ouster Provides Opportunity for Reform in Tunisia | Freedom House

President’s Ouster Provides Opportunity for Reform in Tunisia

Washington

Freedom House welcomes the ouster of Tunisian president Ben Ali after 23 years of dictatorship and calls on the temporary government in Tunisia to use the opportunity to move the country toward genuine democracy by respecting the rights of citizens and holding free and competitive elections.
 
After weeks of civil unrest that began in protest of the country’s high level of corruption and unemployment and became a referendum on the President himself, Tunisian President Ben Ali fled the country late this afternoon. Tunisian Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi announced today that he will utilize Article 56 of the constitution to rule the country until early elections can be held. Ghannouchi promised to implement the reforms to loosen control on the media as well as to ensure greater political rights. This is the first time that an Arab country has unseated a head of state by popular uprising.
 
“This is an historic moment for Tunisians. This moment is made even more significant by the fact that Tunisia resides in a region that has seen virtually no progress if not outright backsliding in political rights and civil liberties,” said David J. Kramer, Executive Director of Freedom House. “Freedom House welcomes Prime Minister Ghannouchi’s promise to respect the constitution and to implement reforms and urges him to match this rhetoric with concrete action.”
 
Ben Ali’s government exercised authoritarian rule since seizing power in a coup in 1987. It harassed, arrested, and imprisoned journalists and bloggers, human rights activists, and political opponents of the government preventing the existence of any real opposition to exist challenge the system.
 
“The temporary government in Tunisia must hold a free and competitive election by allowing complete freedoms of speech and association and by releasing all political prisoners as well as allowing the return of political exiles,” said Daniel Calingaert, Deputy Director of Programs in Freedom House. “These immediate steps will allow for a stronger, more inclusive, government that will ensure that the country doesn’t simply replace one dictator with another,” he noted.
 
Tunisia is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2011, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2010.
 
For more information on Tunisia, visit:
 
 
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Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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