Who Benefits from Choukri’s Assassination?
By Abderrahim Chalfaouat*
Anyone interested in the success of the Arab Spring, particularly in Tunisia, would but condemn the criminal assassination of the leftist opposition leader Choukri Belaid. When he was shot dead in front of his house on Wednesday, February 6th, it was expected-or at least some would dream- that spirits would run high and the whole country involve in more tension and political disagreement.
Yet, no matter who the doer is/are, though it is too important to know, the parties that can benefit from the assassination are numerous and diverse not only due to the affiliation of Belaid and his direct criticism to the post-Ben Ali government but also because Tunisia is a catalyst of the Arab Spring and a successful model of left-Islamist post-revolution tolerance and cooperation.
Granted the noticeable victory of the Annahda Party (moderate Islamists) in the October, 2012 elections, the first to benefit from Choukri’s assassination are secular parties that lost the democratic race, since many think Islamists hijacked the revolution.
The bloody political crime offers them enough leeway to condemn the Islamist-led government and even call for its ouster. The wrath that accrues from the shock of the assassination intensifies leveling criticism at the Hammadi Jbali government, accusing the cabinet of failure to manage the post-revolution period, meet socio-economic challenges and provide security for government opponents.
The three accusations are refutable with the argument that post-revolutions necessitate considerable amounts of time and general contribution for the fruits to ripe and stability to thrive. Post-revolution states are usually vulnerable because the transitional period is a bit long, both for leaders and the revolting peoples.
In the case of Tunisia, lengthy Ben Ali suppression and smothering of different freedoms requires more caution and time to be uprooted totally. Thought or political loyalty to the toppled regime would not give up easily. The situation is aggravated by the shrinking role of tourism and the traces of the international financial crisis and unwillingness of petrodollar countries to help, because success of the revolutions threatens their stability. Thus, meeting social demands would succeed only sequel to more international loans, themselves a gate for corruption and international intervention in local issues, which are aspects of misgovernance that the revolution came to end.
The second parties that can benefit from the assassination of Choukri Belaid are foreign powers. This falls into two: Arab non-revolution countries and Western ones. A number of countries where the sun of the Arab Spring has not risen yet can see the assassination an opportunity to condemn the Arab Spring itself and raise yearning for pre-Elbouazizi despotic but stable days.
Neighboring Algeria, for instance, may view the mishap as an opportunity to shift public attention beyond the borders. With little change fulfilled to adjust to regional transmogrifications, military generals still form the deep state that enjoys political freewill. Their response to any weakening of their grip over the militarized political life was clear in the operation to free In Aminas hostages: the iron fist and armed intervention, coupled with cooperation with and allegiance to international powers especially France. Thus more time is gained to delegitimize any revolution calls.
France can equally make hay while Choukri’s assassination holds center stage in Tunisia. The unsuccessful escape of Ben Ali to France -as indicator of close bonds- inaugurated uneasy relationships with the new leaders of the former colony, to culminate into inability to guarantee unconditional support for the French war in Mali. Possibly, the war on extremism is utilized to curtail moderate Islam in the contest of sovereignty and foreign presence by overlooking despotism in Algeria and criticizing the unsteady progress of the Tunisian experience. As tension surmounts rational thought in Tunisia and opposition protests are catching fire in Egypt, the general impression observers may deduce is that Islamists are unable to lead or keep to promises in post-revolution interim governments. In short, a main target of the assassination is the Arab Spring that brought unwanted Islamists to power.
In conclusion, the only way for Tunisia out of the current dire straits is to further the Islamist-leftist collaboration, focusing on building a freer and more prosperous Tunisia for all. Without calming down the nerves, the civilizational role of Tunisia as catalyst of ideological tolerance that serves national interests may be at stake. An ultimate goal of the assassination is to push the country to explode from within and long for the tyranny that somehow tolerated leftist opposition; an idea that can even legitimize the practices of the toppled regime against moderate –not to mention extremist- Islamists. The interests behind its concretization potentially hint at the culprit.
* Abderrahim Chalfaouat: is a PhD candidate in media studies at Hassan II University, Casablanca. He holds a Masters in Moroccan American studies and a researcher at the Moroccan Center for Contemporary Research and Studies.
All views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Morocco News Tribune’s editorial policy.