2011-02-27 A Cablegate Farewell to Tunisia Interim PM Mohammed Ghannouchi

ImageTime for a Cablegate farewell to interim PM Mohamed Ghannouchi. The revolution wanted Ghannouchi gone the moment he stepped into power. His ties to the Ben Ali regime could not be overcome.

Tunisian youths were allegedly throwing rocks breaking windows right after the resignation speech. Reuters reports security forces "fired tear gas and rounds in the air to disperse them. There was no sign of any wounded."

Ghannouchi was one official the US State Department thought might succeed Ben Ali if he ever became fatally ill. This is how Ghannouchi was described in a January 9, 2006 cable titled, "Succession In Tunisia: Finding A Successor Or Feet First?":

Prime Minister Ghannouchi: (8/18/1941) A career technocrat and trained economist, Ghannouchi has served as Prime Minister since 1999. Ghannouchi is rumored to have told many that he wishes to leave the GOT but has not had the opportunity. The length of his service as PM also suggests that Ben Ali does not view him as a threat and that he is unlikely to be viewed as a qualified successor. However, average Tunisians generally view him with respect and he is well-liked in comparison to other GOT and RCD officials.

Average Tunisians' attitudes (whatever that demographic is to US officials) appear to have been made insignificant by the revolutionary organizers who continue to move Tunisia closer to the society they envision.

In his press conference, according to CNN International, Ghannouchi explained, "I am resigning today because I am not willing to be a person that takes decisions that could cause casualties." Was he being asked to squelch an uprising in a way similar to the Gaddafi regime's current attempts to stop the Libyan Revolution?

Ghannouchi questioned "why a lot of people considered their main target to keep attacking the government, although a lot of its members agreed to join in this critical time."

The cable seems to have predicted the recent political events in Tunisia. How Ghannouchi might succeed Ben Ali is for the most part how politics have played out. Ghannouchi took over for Ben Ali after he fled.

This is what the US diplomat who wrote about presidential succession predicted:

...if Ben Ali were to be "temporarily" incapacitated due to illness, he could turn over a measure of presidential authority to Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi. Ghannouchi, an economist by training, is a respected figure in the "technocratic" mold. If Ben Ali were to die in office, resign for whatever reason, or become so ill he could no longer exercise his functions, the Constitutional Council could declare the Presidency "vacant" and interim authority would fall to Fouad Mebazaa, the current President of the National Assembly. Mebazaa is a long-time ruling RCD party stalwart (a member of the RCD Politburo, a former Minister, and a "survivor" from the Bourguiba era), whose principal task as interim President would be to organize elections and, from an RCD perspective, maintain the party's hold on power.

That is the situation now. Mebazaa can take the next cautionary steps to preserve what is left of the regime and to mitigate the effects of an uprising that continues to win victories. Or, he could accelerate efforts to democratize and bring more freedom and justice to Tunisia and hold elections much earlier than mid-July.

Kamran Bokhari, regional director of the Middle East and South Asia for political risk consultancy Stratfor, was quoted by Reuters saying, "The hope is that, with this concession, street protests will calm down and this will allow the government to get to the task of preparing elections...But the risk is that it will embolden the opposition forces to demand more concessions."

The demonstrators, who do certainly appear to have the upper hand right now, would like the current constitution to be suspended and would like to elect an assembly that can write a new one. They would also like to organize the transition to democracy. And, they have called for the disbanding of the current parliament.

To stay up to date on the latest from Tunisia, see WL Central's Tunisia live blog.

Photo from Al Jazeera interview with Ghannouchi

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