Tunisia: Key players


Tunisia's long-time President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was ousted in a popular uprising on 14 January 2011. A transition government is has been promised elections within six to seven months.

Here are some of the key players inside the new administration, and some other important figures to watch outside the country.

Old guard

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Veteran PM Mohammed Ghannouchi led the interim cabinet for more than a month

Ministers: The country is being led by interim President Fouad Mebazaa, the former parliamentary Speaker. Six ministers from ousted President Ben Ali's old administration reappeared in the new unity government of Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi - himself an ally of the former president who had held the post since 1999. Mr Ghannouchi stood down in late February and was replaced by Beji Caid-Essebsi, a former foreign minister. Interior Minister Ahmed Friaa, Foreign Minister Kamal Morjane, Defence Minister Ridha Grira and Finance Minister Mohamed Ridha Chelghoum are among those who held on to key posts.

Army: It is widely believed that the Tunisian army's chief of staff played a key role in undermining Mr Ben Ali in the days before he fled Tunisia. Gen Rachid Ammar is believed to have resigned, refusing to order the army to fire on unarmed protesters and effectively withdrawing the military's support from the former president. Analysts say that the chief of staff is now the power behind the scenes in Tunisia and may have political ambitions of this own.

Political parties: Under President Ben Ali, Tunisia was effectively under one-party rule. But several other parties exist. They include the Movement of Socialist Democrats, Party of People's Unity, Unionist Democratic Union, Renewal Movement (Ettajdid), Democratic Initiative Movement, Social Liberal Party and the Green Party for Progress.

New faces

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Najib Chebbi has been one of the most outspoken critics of the Tunisian government

In a first for Tunisia, Prime Minister Ghannouchi included three opposition politicians in the interim government. Ahmed Ibrahim, leader of the Ettajdid party, was named minister of higher education and Najib Chebbi, founder of the Progressive Democratic Party, was appointed Tunisia's new development minister. However, Mustafa Ben Jaafar, of the Union of Freedom and Labour (FDTL), who was to serve as health minister, pulled out a day after being appointed, amid popular anger at the continued presence of the RCD in government.

Slim Amamou, a dissident blogger who was arrested during the protests, was named Tunisia's new secretary of state for youth and sport.

Exiled opposition

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Moncef Marzouki is a physician who leads the centre-left Congress for the Republic

The main Tunisian parties in exile include the al-Nahda party (Renaissance), based in Britain, and the Congress for the Republic in France. It is not known if they have a support base inside the country.

Al-Nahda is a banned Islamist party led by Rachid Ghannouchi (no relation to Mohammed Ghannouchi), who was sentenced to life in prison under the old regime for plotting against the state. Prime Minister Ghannouchi has banned him from returning until an amnesty law is approved. The party, based in London, says it advocates democracy, recognises political pluralism, and backs dialogue with the West. It seeks an Islamic constitution for the country.

The Congress for the Republic is a banned secular party led by Moncef Marzouki. Mr Marzouki has denounced political parties in Tunisia for co-operating with the Ben Ali regime. He has now returned to Tunisia after two decades of exile in Paris and has said he intends to contest elections when they are held. The party has campaigned for human rights, an independent judiciary and free elections.