Tunisian Ministers Resign En Masse from old Ruling Party

Stung by continued protests against the Rally for Constitutional Democracy (RCD) of deposed president Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali, the members of that party in the interim cabinet all resigned from it on Thursday morning. The president and prime minister had earlier left the party.

The government also announced the freeing of all political prisoners.

Some observers are wondering if the RCD can survive in Tunisia. It is Ben Ali’s reformation of the old Neo-Destour party of Habib Bourguiba, a mildly socialist party that had led the country to independence from France in 1956. Under Ben Ali it became a creature of the authoritarian president.

Tweets are saying that people are gathering Thursday morning to chant and sing in protest on Bourguiba Avenue. Crowds are smaller than last week, but people are still coming out to demand removal of RCD ministers. Many Tunisians do not trust the former ruling party to work honestly for a transition to democracy.

Swiss banks have frozen Ben Ali’s accounts, and the government has seized the Zitoune Bank of Ben Ali’s son-in-law, as well as arresting members of Ben Ali’s clan.

Meanwhile, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa delivered the unwelcome message to an Arab summit at Sharm el-Sheikh that the anger visible in Tunisia could spread if development and political reform were not pursued.

Sudan is seeing small demonstrations, broken up by police, demanding the release of Muslim fundamentalist leader Hasan Turabi, who was taken into custody after he urged a Tunisia-style uprising in that country.