US embassy cable - 88TUNIS11598

TUNISIA CELEBRATES 7 NOVEMBER; ELECTIONS NEXT APRIL; NATIONAL PACT SIGNED

Identifier: 88TUNIS11598
Wikileaks: View 88TUNIS11598 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Tunis
Created: 1988-11-08 15:49:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PGOV PHUM ECON ELAB PREL TS
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
P 081549Z NOV 88
FM AMEMBASSY TUNIS
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8538
INFO AMEMBASSY ALGIERS
AMEMBASSY CAIRO
AMEMBASSY PARIS
AMEMBASSY RABAT
AMEMBASSY ROME
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TUNIS 11598 
 
E.O. 12356:  DECL:  OADR 
TAGS:  PGOV, PHUM, ECON, ELAB, PREL, TS 
SUBJECT:  TUNISIA CELEBRATES 7 NOVEMBER; ELECTIONS 
          NEXT APRIL; NATIONAL PACT SIGNED 
 
REF:  (A) FBIS LD0711185788; (B) FBIS LD0711163688 
 
1.  C O N F I D E N T I A L- ENTIRE TEXT. 
 
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SUMMARY 
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2.  TUNISIA CELEBRATED THE FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF THE 
CHANGE OF GOVERNMENT LAST 7 NOVEMBER WITH FESTIVITIES 
AND CEREMONIES.  TUNISIANS RESPONDED 
ENTHUSIASTICALLY.  IN AN ADDRESS TO THE CHAMBER OF 
DEPUTIES BEN ALI ANNOUNCED THAT PRESIDENTIAL AND 
LEGISLATIVE ELECTIONS WOULD BE HELD 9 APRIL AND 
RECAPITULATED HIS GOVERNMENT'S ACHIEVEMENTS OVER THE 
PAST YEAR.  TOGETHER WITH REPRESENTATIVES FROM THE 
LEGAL OPPOSITION AND PROFESSIONAL AND PROFESSIONAL 
ASSOCIATIONS HE SIGNED A "NATIONAL PACT" TO SERVE AS 
A UNIFYING CREDO.  FOR MOST TUNISIANS BEN ALI HAS 
LIVED UP TO THE PROMISES AND EXPECTATIONS EVOKED LAST 
YEAR.  END SUMMARY. 
 
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7 NOVEMBER: AN OCCASION TO CELEBRATE 
------------------------------------ 
 
3.  THE 7TH OF NOVEMBER WAS THE OCCASION FOR A WIDE 
RANGE OF FESTIVITIES AND CEREMONIES.  PRESIDENT ZINE 
EL ABIDINE BEN ALI HAD SET THE MOOD TWO DAYS BEFORE 
ISSUING A CLEMENCY THAT BENEFITED SCORES OF 
PRISONERS, INCLUDING SUCH PROMINENT OPPOSITION 
FIGURES AS NAJIB CHEBBI AND THE ISLAMIST ABDELFATAH 
MOUROU (SEPTEL).  STREETS WERE RENAMED, CONFERENCES 
HELD, AND PARADES ORGANIZED THROUGHOUT TUNISIA. 
(NATIONAL TV SHOWED THE TUNSIAN CONSUL IN LIBYA 
INAUGURATING A "7 NOVEMBER AVENUE" IN TRIPOLI.)  GOT 
LET GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES LEAVE WORK EARLY.  UNLIKE 
PAST PARADES, THE MILITARY ASPECT DID NOT DOMINATE: 
NO WEAPONS WERE DISPLAYED AND NO JETS OVERFLEW THE 
PROCESSIONS.  FOR THE FIRST TIME IN TUNISIA'S 
HISTORY, THE LEGAL OPPOSITION PARTIES WERE ALLOWED TO 
PARTICIPATE IN THE PARADES:  THE YOUTH WINGS OF THE 
LEGAL PARTIES HAD FLOATS.  THE MOST PROMINENT FOREIGN 
DIGNITARY AT THE FESTIVITIES WAS LIBYAN COMMANDANT 
KHOUILDY HUMIDI WHO STOOD AT BEN ALI'S SIDE ON THE 
VIEWING STAND.  HABIB AMMAR, THE RECENTLY FIRED 
INTERIOR MINISTER, WAS ALSO PRESENT AND WAS ONE OF 12 
RECIPIENTS OF A "ORDER OF 7TH NOVEMBER RIBBON" 
AWARDED BY BEN ALI THAT DAY.  DIPLOMATS WHO OBSERVED 
AMMAR UP CLOSE, HOWEVER, SAID HE LOOKED DRAWN. 
 
4.  A FEW WEEKS BEFORE THE FESTIVITIES TWO 
INDEPENDENT PAPERS ASKED BEN ALI TO TREAT 7TH 
NOVEMBER AS AN ORDINARY DAY SO AS TO BREAK 
DEFINITIVELY WITH THE PERSONALITY CULT OF THE 
BOURGUIBA YEARS.  THIS SENTIMENT WAS NOT WIDESPREAD, 
HOWEVER, AND THE THOUSANDS WHO ATTENDED THE PARADES, 
FIREWORKS, ETC. WERE OBVIOUSLY ENTHUSIASTIC, ALBEIT 
LESS BOISTEROUS THAN SUCH CROWDS WERE ON SIMILAR 
OCCASIONS DURING THE BOURGUIBA ERA. 
 
------------------------------------- 
BEN ALI ADDRESSES CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES 
------------------------------------- 
 
5.  IN AN ADDRESS TO THE CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES (REF A) 
THE AFTERNOON OF 7 NOVEMBER PRESIDENT BEN ALI 
ANNOUNCED NEW MEASURES AND RECAPITULATED RECENT 
ACHIEVEMENTS.  HE ANNOUNCED THAT EARLY PRESIDENTIAL 
AND GENERAL LEGISLATIVE ELECTIONS WOULD BE HELD 9 
APRIL 1989.  (FYI. THIS SUPPLANTS THE ELECTIONS 
SCHEDULED FOR JANUARY AND NOVEMBER 1989. END FYI.) 
OTHER MEASURES INCLUDE:  A SECRETARIAT OF STATE 
CHARGED WITH RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS; A DRAFT LAW 
ABOLISHING FORCED LABOR AS A PRISON SENTENCE; 
RESTRUCTURED AND ENHANCED GOVERNORATE COUNCILS; A 
COMMITTEE TO ENHANCE JUDICIAL AUTHORITY; AND A 
SUPREME COUNCIL OF COMMUNICATION. 
 
6.  BEN ALI MENTIONED THE RECENT POLITICAL REFORMS 
AND THANKED THE UNITED NATIONS AND THE ARAB 
ORGANIZATION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS FOR SELECTING TUNISIA 
TO HOST THE ARAB/AFRICAN HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTE.  HE 
REITERATED GOT'S PLAN TO ARABIZING EDUCATION AND 
OUTLINED PLANS TO TACKLE ECONOMIC PROBLEMS (SEPTEL), 
ESPECIALLY UNEMPLOYMENT: "OUR MAJOR CONCERN".  HE 
APPEALED TO HIS FELLOW TUNISIANS TO OVERCOME THE 
"WAITING ATTITUDE" AND ADMINISTRATIVE SLOWNESS AND 
ASKED TRADE UNIONIST TO BREAK WITH THE NEGATIVE 
PAST.  AS FOR FOREIGN POLICY, HIS GOVERNMENT ASSIGNED 
PRIME IMPORTANCE TO THE MAGHREB, HAD REESTABLISHED 
THE COUNTRY'S ARAB DIMENSION, AND HAD REINFORCED 
LINKS WITH OTHER MUSLIM, AFRICAN, MEDITERRANEAN, AND 
NON-ALIGNED STATES.  RESPECT FOR MORALITY, HE SAID, 
IS BINDING ON EVERYONE.  WOMEN, BEING ROLE MODELS FOR 
CHILDREN, MUST PROVE THEY ARE WORTHY OF THE RIGHTS 
THAT THEY HAVE GAINED.  HE CALLED ISLAM A RELIGION OF 
TOLERANCE AND TUNISIA'S REFUGE AND ASKED THEOLOGIANS 
TO GO HAND IN HAND WITH PROGRESS. 
 
----------------- 
THE NATIONAL PACT 
----------------- 
 
7.  EARLIER IN THE DAY THE LEGAL POLITICAL PARTIES 
AND NATIONAL AND PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS SIGNED THE 
"NATIONAL PACT" (REF B), A SORT OF NATIONAL CREDO. 
THE PACT IS THE JOINT EFFORT OF REPRESENTATIVES FROM 
THE LEGAL PARTIES, THE TUNISIAN TRADE UNION 
FEDERATION (UGTT), THE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE (UTICA), 
AND A SYMPATHIZER OF THE ISLAMIC TENDENCY MOVEMENT. 
OF THE FOUR BROAD TOPICS THAT THE PACT DISCUSSES, THE 
ONE ON "IDENTITY" IS THE MOST SPECIFIC.  IT AFFIRMS 
FORCEFULLY THE NEED FOR ARABIZATION AND REITERATES 
TUNISIA'S AVERSION TO POLYGAMY AND SUPPORT FOR EQUAL 
RIGHTS FOR WOMEN IN DIVORCE.  UNDER THE HEADING 
"POLITICAL REGIME" THE NEED FOR RESPECTING HUMAN 
RIGHTS AND POLITICAL TOLERANCE IS RESTATED; UNDER 
"DEVELOPMENT" THE PACT CALLS ON CITIZENS TO SUBMIT TO 
"FISCAL DUTY", ENDORSES AN EQUITABLE SHARING OF 
ECONOMIC SACRIFICES, AND ASSIGNS PRIORITY TO 
AGRICULTURE. THE "FOREIGN RELATIONS" SECTION AFFIRMS 
THE URGENCY OF CREATING AN ARAB MAGHREB AND TUNISIA'S 
ATTACHMENT TO NON-ALIGNMENT AND SUPPORT FOR THE UN 
AND OAU. 
 
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COMMENT 
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8.  WHEN TUNISIANS COMPARE BEN ALI'S RECORD WITH THE 
PROMISES AND EXPECTATIONS EVOKED LAST YEAR THE 
OVERWHELMING MAJORITY BELIEVE HE HAS DELIVERED.  GOT 
HAS FREED HUNDREDS OF POLITICAL PRISONERS, ENACTED 
NUMEROUS POLITICAL REFORMS, AND -- PERHAPS MOST 
IMPORTANTLY -- CONVINCED THE AVERAGE MAN THAT IT IS 
HONEST AND COMPETENT.  SIGNIFICANTLY, THE PASSAGE IN 
BEN ALI'S SPEECH BEFORE THE CHAMBER THAT DREW THE 
MOST APPLAUSE WAS THE SECTION WHERE HE SAID (ALLUDING 
TO HABIB AMMAR), "NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW...THERE IS 
NO ROOM FOR THE EXPLOITATIONS OF NEPOTISM AND 
FAVORITISM...." 
 
PELLETREAU 

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