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Eric Okpeitcha's Blog in 2013
Belaid Chokri assassinated, peril on democracy in Tunisia

Posted 02/12/2013: 

Belaid Chokri, a well-known figure of secular opposition in Tunisia was gunned down outside his home by unidentified men, Wednesday February 6th. This has immediately sparked riots and street protests which security force attempted to contain by firing tear gas. Later that evening, the Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali announced his intention to dismiss the government and to establish a new non-partisan cabinet until national election. This move aimed at defusing the social explosion was immediately rejected both by his own party Ennahda and the opposition, leaving Tunisia in disarray.

Chokri was a leader of a small leftist movement. His sharp and outspoken criticism of the ruling Islamist party policies made him famous and the target of many death threat. This situation raises many questions and deserves analysis.

This political assassination which is the first since the overthrow of Ben Ali doesn’t serve the image of the whole country. It is worth reasserting that Tunisia is the birthplace of Arab Spring and his peaceful transition was considered so far an example for Egypt and Libya. For this, such as a political violence is unacceptable.

Secondly, this assassination will obviously lead to a great crisis of confidence on the ruling party to manage the power and to establish a just and free society capable of providing the citizens security and material welfare. In the wake of the killing of Chokri, many people accuse the government of not to doing its best to prevent political and religious violence and turning a blind eye to radical Islamist violence. After swiftly condemning the killing, can the government succeed in finding the assassinators and punishing them ? Can the government succeed in containing the street protesters who set fire to the Ennahda headquarters ? Can the government wage an effective war against political and religious violence committed by radical Islamists? It won’t be an easy task. However, it is the key of the current crisis.

When all is said and done, I would like to say that the deep reason of this crime might be Chokri’s opened criticism of the government. But it is also known that one of the important basic principles of the democratic system lies in the freedom of opinion. Can we have democracy without a pluralism of opinions ? So this murder is also an attack on the spirit and root of democracy.

Deeply, this raises the question of the possibility to blend religion and democracy in Arab countries like tribalism and democracy in sub-Saharan Africa.

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