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
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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.”


Oman ‘still needs expats,’ ministry says

Updated 14 min 44 sec ago
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Oman ‘still needs expats,’ ministry says

  • The ministry said expat workers are needed because the country is working on “mega infrastructure projects”
  • Expats make up almost 90 percent of Oman’s private sector workforce, which the government has been trying to reduce

DUBAI: Driving down the number of expat workers in Oman’s private sector is “going to take a long time,” a senior official at the Ministry of Manpower said, highlighting infrastructure projects as areas where expat workers are needed.
Despite ongoing efforts to integrate more Omanis in the workforce, the ministry said the country still needs expat workers for “mega infrastructure projects.”
Expats make up almost 90 percent of Oman’s private sector workforce, which the government has been trying to reduce through its Omanization policies.
“Some professions in the private sector are Omanized and restricted to Omanis, such as administrative professions and some senior leadership positions, such as personnel managers and human resource managers. The Ministry of Manpower also issued a decision to ban the recruitment of a non-Omani labor force in some professions, as well introduced a hike in work permit fees for the expatriate labor force,” Salim bin Nasser Al Harami, Director General of Planning and Development at the Ministry of Manpower, told local daily Times of Oman.
The expatriate visa ban halted the hiring of expats to jobs across 87 sectors which include information systems, accounting and finance, sales and marketing, administration, human resources and insurance.
These efforts resulted in a two percent decline in October, which Al Hadrami said was a “a good and positive indicator.”
The National Center for Statistics & Information in Oman reported that of the 2,041,190 workers in the private sector, only 250,717 are Omanis, with the vast majority – 87.72 percent – being expatriates.
The Omanization drive aims to recruit more of local citizens in private companies — a similar push across the GCC where countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait who have also been trying to increase the number of nationals in private sector employment.