Tunisia’s revolutionary youth disillusioned ahead of municipal elections

Many young Tunisians are enraged at being kept apart from a political scene that they think it is reserved for veterans from all political sides. (AFP)
Updated 03 May 2018
0

Tunisia’s revolutionary youth disillusioned ahead of municipal elections

  • Many Tunisian youths say they are not planning to vote in the May 6 elections that many hope will help anchor democratic change at a local level.
  • Municipal leaders elected on Sunday will have more autonomy than those in office under Ben Ali.

TUNIS: Clean streets, functional transportation, a football field... young Tunisians are not asking for the moon from their soon-to-be elected officials, but many are skeptical about whether they will bring real change.

In this Sunday’s municipal elections, the first in Tunisia since the 2011 revolution, a third of voters and a majority of the candidates will be under the age of 36.

But if they were the primary driver of mass protests that ousted Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, which gave birth to the only democracy of the Arab Spring, many youths are now pessimistic.

With tailored tweed trousers and slicked-back hair, 22-year-old Yosri Aloulou steps over rubbish and dirty water in the Old City of Tunis as he heads home to his family’s apartment after finishing work at a hip cafe in the capital.

“You see, over there is Rue de Riche (Street of the Rich), but here it’s the street of the poor,” he said, chuckling with his friends.

They are frustrated by the stark contrast between the carefully renovated touristic medina next door and their neighborhood of Bab Jdid, where dilapidated houses are collapsing.

“I would like the road to be repaved and the rubbish bins collected, and that water didn’t come up to your knees every time it rains for half-an-hour,” said the young man, who finished high school last summer and is now working to save money to pay for film studies.

“Here, there’s not even a youth center or a football field,” he said.

When young people from the neighborhood presented a list of ideas to local authorities, Aloulou said, they were told to vote and take the issues up with their newly elected representatives.

“The civil society organizations are acting. They are just blah blah,” he said, pointing to a group of campaigning political activists who passed by Bab Jdid’s entrance without stopping.

Disenchanted with what they view as a lack of improvement since the revolution, and a distrust of a political class full of “old elephants,” many Tunisian youths say they are not planning to vote in the May 6 elections that many hope will help anchor democratic change at a local level.

But in the west of the capital, Wasila Najar, a medical intern at the Manouba Hospital, wants to “keep hope that change is possible.”

“In my district, there is a surgeon and other people I know who are stepping forward with real proposals,” said the 29-year-old student, citing pollution, rubbish collection and transportation issues.

Municipal leaders elected on Sunday will have more autonomy than those in office under Ben Ali, and more prerogatives than the special delegations tasked with the day-to-day management of cities since the revolution.

“For me, it’s the independent lists that can improve the situation, with local officials who know our problems and have ideas on how to solve them,” said Najar.

Only the Islamists of the Ennahda party and the liberals of Nidaa Tounes have managed to secure lists in all 350 municipalities, and many observers expect them to capture a good part of the cities.

But Wasila says she still plans to vote on Sunday to avoid leaving “the country to those who have lied and disappointed us” in recent years.

After parliamentary elections in 2014, Nidaa Tounes, elected on an anti-extremist ticket, quickly made an alliance with Ennahda, leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of many Tunisian voters.

This is precisely why Ghazoua Maaouia, a gym teacher who voted in 2014, will not vote this time around.

“This campaign is pure comedy,” she said. Candidates clash on TV, she said, but the real deals are made “in backstage arrangements between the big parties that share the cake.”

Maaouia, who teaches at a public school downtown while completing her doctorate, believes young candidates will never have a true seat at the table. For her, the young political hopefuls are only “symbolic.”

“Young people have ideas, they do a lot of things in the field, but they have no political power to get things done.”


Israeli forces wound 77 Palestinians at protest near Gaza Strip border

Protesters run for cover from teargas during Friday’s protests in Gaza. (AP)
Updated 20 October 2018
0

Israeli forces wound 77 Palestinians at protest near Gaza Strip border

  • Palestinians have been protesting along the border since March 30, demanding an end to Israel’s blockade of the territory and the right to return to lands that Palestinians fled or were driven from upon Israel’s founding in 1948

GAZA: Israeli soldiers shot and wounded 77 Palestinians during protests near the Gaza Strip border on Friday, the enclave’s Health Ministry said.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said about 10,000 demonstrators massed at the border and that some threw burning tires, grenades and explosive devices at the troops across the fence. About 30 Palestinians suffered tear gas inhalation, the Gaza Health Ministry said.
But the protest was relatively small — some of the previous gatherings included about 30,000 people, a sign that tensions that have built up in the past few days may be easing.
On Thursday, Israel had ramped up armored forces along the Gaza border, a day after a rocket fired from the enclave destroyed a home in southern Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, vowed “very strong action” if attacks continued. A Palestinian official said Egyptian security officials had held separate meetings in the past few days with Israeli counterparts and with leaders of the Palestinian Hamas group that rules Gaza in an effort to prevent an escalation in violence.
Palestinians have been protesting along the border since March 30, demanding an end to Israel’s blockade of the territory and the right to return to lands that Palestinians fled or were driven from upon Israel’s founding in 1948. About 200 Gazans have been killed by Israeli troops since the protests started, according to Palestinian Health Ministry figures. Pale stinians have launched incendiary balloons and kites into Israel and on occasion breached the Israeli frontier fence. More than 2 million Palestinians are packed into the narrow coastal enclave. Israel pulled troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005 but maintains tight control of its land and sea borders.
Egypt also restricts movement in and out of Gaza on its border. Nickolay Mladenov, the UN’s Mideast peace envoy, earlier urged Israel and the Palestinians to exercise restraint ahead of the protests. Mosque loudspeakers in the Palestinian enclave urged Gazans to attend Friday’s demonstrations, despite statements by Gaza’s leaders that Hamas seeks to rein in the protests. “In light of today’s planned Gaza march, I urge all to exercise restraint, to proceed in a peaceful manner, and to avoid escalation,” Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement. “The UN is working with Egypt and its partners to avoid violence, address all humanitarian issues and support reconciliation.”
Egyptian intelligence officials met with Hamas and Israeli officials on Thursday in efforts to broker a cease-fire and ease months of deadly border protests. Egypt and the UN have attempted to negotiate a truce between Israel and Hamas for weeks in a bid to ease tensions in the beleaguered Gaza Strip.
Hamas has organized weekly protests since March that seek, in part, to secure an easing of the Egyptian-Israeli blockade of the Palestinian enclave imposed after the Islamic militant group seized control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in 2007 in an armed coup.
At least 156 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire at the protests, and an Israeli solider was killed by a Palestinian sniper.
The protests have intensified in recent weeks as Egyptian and UN cease-fire negotiations have faltered, and cross-border violence earlier this week has brought tensions to a simmer.
On Wednesday, a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip destroyed a house in the Israeli city of Beersheba in the worst bout of violence in recent weeks. Israel retaliated with airstrikes and has beefed up its military forces along the border. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Security Cabinet resolved to retaliate more severely to cross-border attacks, but has thus far refrained from further action, suggesting it was giving the Egyptians a chance to restore calm.