TUNIS (Reuters) - Hundreds of soldiers manned the streets of the Tunisian capital Saturday and the caretaker president, his predecessor swept from power by popular protests, asked the prime minister to form a coalition government.
In a dramatic climax to weeks of violent protests against his rule, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, president for more than 23 years, fled to Saudi Arabia Friday.
Following is reaction from analysts, politicians:
The problem with Ben Ali was that he was so arrogant that he undermined his own power base, alienating supporters in the party and the business community. All his power and wealth became concentrated in the family and especially that of his wife. As for the security forces, it was all about the police. The army didn’t count. He never allowed the army to have a role in power.
“Because no one expected this, the risks are much higher. Tunisia’s politics have revolved around one man for so long, and now he is gone. Because the protest movement has been so leaderless, no one really has the authority to take over. In the short-term, people may accept the military effectively taking over if it brings order and if it looks as though they will then allow free elections. But it is very hard to say.
“The regional implications are huge. I think you will see governments around the region making statements that they will recognise the will of the people and what has happened in Tunisia — partly to placate their own people. In terms of how vulnerable other governments are, it varies. In some countries: Syria, Jordan, for example, the security forces are much more closely linked to the government and would crush any revolt just as the Iranians did. In others, it is less clear that the government could rely on the military and police for a crackdown. I think one of the things that happened in Tunisia is that the government realised they could no longer simply rely on force.”
GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL’S MESSAGE TO TUNISIAN
“Seek reconciliation with the protesting people and introduce a true democracy. It is absolutely necessary to respect human rights and to guarantee freedom of the press and of assembly.
“Germany and the European Union stand ready to support you in such a new beginning.”
“France has taken the necessary steps to ensure suspicious financial movements concerning Tunisian assets in France are blocked administratively.
“France is prepared to meet any request for help to ensure the democratic process take place in indisputable fashion
SELIM BEN HASSAN, PARIS-BASED PRESIDENT OF THE BYRSA
“Don’t forget the regime is still in place.”
“He (Ghannouchi) is first of all a Ben Ali man who was prime minister for more than 10 years and has given himself the job of organising commissions of inquiry into corruption, transparency, freedom of expression as well as free and independent elections.
“If such people were in good faith and convinced about the need for democracy and the sovereignty of the people, I think they would have done this a long time back.”
“Although the streets of Tunis are calmer than they have been in several days, Ben Ali’s departure is not likely to immediately defuse tension across the country,” it said in a research paper.
“If Ghannouchi does not announce a definitive timetable for new presidential elections, or if he does not form a transitional government with substantial opposition representatives in the short term, it could drive protesters back out in the street.”
“Egypt affirms its respect for the choices of the people in brotherly Tunisia as it trusts in the wisdom of its Tunisian brothers in fixing the situation and avoiding the collapse of Tunisia into chaos
“What is of importance to all of us is the implementation of the demand of the Tunisian nation in the best form possible as a country that can play an effective role in the Islamic world.
Sudan said it welcomed the political change in Tunisia and respected the political will and social aspiration of the Tunisian people to choose their political future. “This popular change should be an opportunity for the whole nation to attain freedom, security, stability and a good future,” a foreign ministry spokesman said.
“What we hope to see is Prime Minister Ghannouchi being able to gather significant figures around him to put together a coalition body which will take us through to what we hope will be free and fair elections,” he told BBC radio.
“Much really will depend on the next few days to see how he can gather people round him in order to get through to the Tunisian people that there is a constitutional process which will lead to the sort of freedom which is clear from the streets they have been looking for.”