For independent (slash) junior (slash) unexperienced researcher like me, finding fresh and up-to-the-minute topics to be developed in my personal blog is somewhat difficult thing to do. But that’s turn out to the opposite when it comes to Tunisia and it’s political fiasco for the last couple weeks in which all started from three weeks protests mostly by unemployed youths in coalition with lawyers, political campaigners, and students. Sounds like “Bangkok’s Red Shirt” on May 2010? Scratch that thought out, this one is more than just ousted prime minister and his group attacking current government, this is 23 years of waiting for justice and degree of social peace ever since President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali overthrew Tunisia’s last President, Habib Bourguiba (who is declared by his physicians unable to continue assuming the duties of the office) in a bloodless coup. Ben Ali was served his fifth consecutive five-year term as president, strongly supported by military army and World Bank loans. Nowadays, Tunisians throwing great celebrations after Mr. Ben Ali stood down as president and left the country.
For me, the most interesting element of this story is seeing how long term authoritarianism, despotism, and dictatorship government ended by youth protest movements, lesson learned lately in Tunisia and 13 years ago in my country, Indonesia.
But is it just me or is it true that it's not only about the terms of presidency that matter the most here but it's also including how citizens will react out of control after freedom restrictions imposed by the government itself. And more important: What will happen next after the joyousness dissapear?
TUNISIA UNDER BEN ALI's 23 YEARS OF PRESIDENCY
7 November 1987
It was more than unstable political situation, it was well structured scenario architected by Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, a moderate politician comes from poor family in Hammam-Sousse, who once served as Head of Tunisian Military Security back in 1964.
After Tunisia's first president Habib Bourguiba lead the country for 31 years since it's independence day from France's protectorate on March 20 1956 -repressing Islamic fundamentalism throughout the country- Ben Ali replaced Bourguiba and has served as pro western president since then. His non-aligned stance in Tunisia's foreign policy aroused from his dependency with World Bank's loans, created public debt 49,5% of total GDP in 2010.
Beside his enslavement with western financial institution, Ben Ali created massive unemployment rates referring to The Economist report on January 6th, 13% of Tunisians are officially out of work, double for young people and even higher for recent college graduates. Jobs availability for Tunisia's productive age are ranged in cheap paid labour in Europe companies or investors. And moreover, just like in any other western-dictated countries, Tunisia also facing social gaps between rich and poor mostly divided into "Ben Ali families and people" with "ordinary Tunisian". Corruption issue which involved Ben Ali's second wife Leila Trabelsi and her families,arised and turned into national debates for years without further investigated.
Public resentment came into it's culmination point on mid December, where more than 60 people reported have already been shot by the security forces. Ben Ali announced on January 13th 2011 that he called for legislative elections to be held within 6 months, and promised to create 300.000 jobs without additional informations provided. No more sympathy for Ben Ali in his own country, his own pledge to leave office by 2014 seemed useless, Tunisians want him out of presidency, even more out of the country and hope that Mr. Ben Ali will go the way of Nicolae Ceausescu, the Romanian dictator abandoned by his military after mass protests.
In fact, Ben Ali left the country on Friday, January 14th. Public gloriously contented, marked new hopes for Tunisia in future. But new question arised: What will it be then? No leader figure, no political stability (Tunisia now under Mohammed Ghannouchi, Ben Ali's Prime Minister, who declared himself in charge of the country, but public sees him as Ben Ali's right hand). In capital city, Tunis, soldiers and tanks patrol the streets, in short: Will Tunisia become under military regimes? After 23 years under the shadow of military backed up government, will it be the best option for Algeria and Libya's closest neighbour? Or this question will drive Tunisia into it's new phase called "International intervention" where democracy blend together with "market leads economy".
INDONESIA UNDER SOEHARTO's 32 YEARS OF PRESIDENCY
Thousands people gathered celebrated their triumph after weeks massive protests centered around Senayan's house of representative, after Soeharto (man who served as President for 32 years) announced his step down decision from Presidency handed it over to his Vice President at that moment, Baharudin Jusuf Habibie, a technocrat who famously known as BJ Habibie.
Thirty two years is not short term for presidency period, in fact, it was long suffered years for Indonesian particularly for it's natural resources stealed from locals through several contracts which Soeharto and his people made with international companies and investors. Human rights price was zero, proved by many activists reported lost and never investigated by any government's authority. Uncertainty was everyday's life of many Indonesians at that moments.
Corruptions, collusions, and nepotisms were three favourite words to describe Soeharto's biggest sins during his government ruled Indonesia, left the country as a victim of International Monetary Fund' loans, World Bank and Asian Development Bank's loyal customer, and free market supporter in which created large scale poverty around the country.
It's not the years that counted in Indonesia-Soeharto's cases, the misery is. Now, after almost 13 years of the day where student protesters flooded the country with political protests and made Soeharto out from his golden seat in Istana Merdeka (Presidential palace), Indonesia still struggling hard with debts and poverty rates. Despite the recovery of governance system, where corruption cases handled more transparant and strict after the establishment of Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (Corruption Eradication Commission) in 2003, freedom of speech forced throughout the country from central to provincial government, there are still more homeworks to be done by current President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY).
It proves the world, despite the momentous victory in 1998 when Soeharto left presidency, public hopes for better future, it was not easy for country like Indonesia to move out from it's dependency with foreign countries and international organization. Once the country intervened by international parties, significantly with loans and long term assistances, it has been difficult times for Indonesia to independently solved their problems.
INDONESIA AND TUNISIA : YEARS THAT COUNTED
|Soeharto (right) with Indonesia's first President Soekarno (left)|
Ben Ali and Soeharto, I dont think they were close to each other, but they do have lot things in common as former dictator of Tunisia and Indonesia: Both served as military chief before toppled their predecessor with bloodless coup, corruption cases, pro western policies, human rights violations, military backed up governance, large scale family business empires, until how they got ousted from their hot seat as president. Indonesia showed: Years that lost couldn't be reached back again. Gave away the system of democracy to international parties was the biggest mistake ever. It's more than just intervention, it is inter-dependence then.
Tunisia, with it's petroleum and oil business as main source of foreign investments, will facing hard moments to decide how to stand balance between their sovereignty as independent country with no strong leader figure like now, and becoming more approachable for third parties to getting involve inside it's democracy building process. It isn't bad, but it isn't good either. Foreign assistances will be good if there's no other mission behind, and that's gonna be hard job for ruling government in Tunisia. The revolution that toppled Mr Ben Ali may not be over yet, in fact, it has just started.
"Every generation needs a new revolution", once Thomas Jefferson said. This is the time for young people in Tunisia, to make their own revolution, just like what Indonesian young people did in 1998.
Lima, January 16th, 2011.