TUNISIA’S Islamist-led government boasts an unusual qualification. No
fewer than ten cabinet members are former political prisoners. The
prime minister, Hamadi Jebali, himself spent 14 years in jail, most of
them in solitary confinement. During the 23-year reign of the ousted
dictator, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, all that prisoners could read, apart
from the Koran, was the deadening officialese of Tunisian newspapers. As
the government completes its first 100 days in office, critics still
charge that prison and exile have hardly equipped ministers to navigate a
difficult transition to democracy.
Most Tunisians seem to take a different view. Recent opinion polls
suggest that Mr Jebali’s support easily exceeds the nearly 37% of votes
that his party, Ennahda, scored in last October’s election. Approval
ratings for the non-Islamist partners in his coalition, the centre-left
Congress for the Republic and Ettakatol, have likewise risen.
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