To Stabilize Tunisia, Former Ruling RCD Party Must be Banned and Sent to the Museum
[The North Africa Journal] Flash back to October 5, 1988: Tens of thousands of young Algerian men took to streets to demand a new political landscape, reforms and the rule of law. In power since the country’s independence in 1962, the FLN party ruled without competition, preventing any opposition to form. As an outcome of the 1988 Algerian youth uprising, the then President Bendjedid promised political openness and a swift move to a multi-party system.
Fast forward in 2011 and the Algerian political system is dominated by the iron fist of the FLN, somewhat competing a tiny bit is a baby-FLN, the RND which was created by former FLN members essentially to hijack the democratization process. There are a few opposition parties that are largely irrelevant, not because their members are not skilled, but because the FLN-RND duo, essentially the ruling regime of today, prevents them from operating normally.
What does all this have to do with Tunisia, you may ask? Tunisia is no different and can now decide to break from the past or risk to follow the Algerian model. It has the presidential ruling party the RCD, the equivalent of the Algerian FLN party. And unless the party is dismantled, the country risks going back to square one.
The RCD is not necessarily a bad organization. It is simply old, out-of-touch and tainted with the Ben Ali legacy. Old because it is the Neo-Destour party that led Tunisia to its independence from France in March of 1956. While it was acceptable that the Neo Destour in the late 1950s and the 1960s led the country under Habib Bourguiba due to the need of normal continuation of the independence process, it must have stopped then and allow pluralism to take place in the 1970s. Instead, it changed its name from Destour to RCD and furthered its grip on power, allowing only rubber-stamping weak opposition parties to win symbolic seats in parliament.
Tunisia is now in the situation where it must send the RCD into the museum of history. The RCD and the Tunisian people had a brutal divorce this January 2011, and there is probably nothing that can be done to reconcile the two. Avoiding a repeat of what happened in Algeria is a must, and the first steps of that are already happening. This weekend, Interior Minister Farhat Rajhi ordered the complete suspension of RCD activities in the country. Meetings are no longer allowed and we salute such decision. Why is it important to weaken the RCD? Because it is the entity that still has the assets and capabilities to organize meetings and events and influence political outcome. Thousands of members also remain loyalists to Ben Ali and his defunct regime. These loyalists are often, if not always, the source of trouble and crimes currently happening in Tunisian.