Tunisian President Ben Ali(Pictured: President Ben Ali.)

End of an era: Beginning of…something new? “I’m leaving on a jet plane; don’t know when I’ll be back again…”

The words of John Denver forty years ago in the mouth of Zine Ben Ali today? Is it all coming to an ignonimous end for Tunisia’s president and his wife Leila Trabelsi?

‘The word on the Tunisian street’… or on the internet social networks – almost the same thing these days – is that it is almost over for Tunisia’s first couple, that they are emptying out what is left in Tunisia’s coffers, that an Airbus is fueled, ready and waiting to take off, as are the private jets of members of their two extended families… just in case the protests rocking the country cannot be crushed. As the protests spread, Ben Ali’s grip on power appears to be fading. Are we looking at the final hours, days of Ben Ali’s long 23 year ‘reign’ in which human rights violations have become so commonplace that they have hardly attracted attention until, this last week, it all reached another level? Perhaps.

Hard to tell at this point, but two Tunisian readers of this piece that also appeared on Nawaat.org offer interesting comments which I quote in full:

The first:

If these ongoing riots would trigger social unrest that spreads out to others regions, it can definitely imply the downfall of the Regime. But so far, there are not enough indications to be certain of anything yet.

Just waiting for two things to happen :

1. What if the SidiBouzid unrest gets bigger and wider, and reaches its “Point of No Return”?

2. Finally, what will be the Regime’s response ? Will it fight back at any price, to stay in power, or does the Regime realize it’s time [to] pack up and to take the money and run !!!

Although things can turn nasty if the Police Forces are given the order of cracking down on any protest. That would be real foolish, should the order be given because this will only add more aggravation to the general situation where Tunisia finds itself today, namely in the middle of nowhere. The country needs badly to get rid of this corrupt political system, and must plead for a peaceful “Takeover” in order not to lose grip over its stability. In other words, no one will ever gain anything from a bloody civil war, and the Regime must bear that in mind before it’s too late.

The second:

Dr. Marzouki a dit: “…Ce n’est même pas une dictature idéologique, c’est une dictature mafieuse…”. Une dictature idéologique serait plus résiliente, la dictature de Ben Ali est plu fragile et ne durera pas longtemps…..Les hommes honnêtes de la Tunisie même qui sont au sein du pouvoir doivent agir maintenant!”

(Translation: Dr. Marzouki said, “It isn’t even an ideological dictatorship but a kind of ‘mafia dictatorship’. An ideological dictatorship would be more resilient, that of Ben Ali is more fragile and will not last much longer. The honest citizens of Tunisia, even those in seats of power, [must] act (become engaged in the reform movement) now.”

(Note: there is a Dr. Marzouki, I am not sure if he is the same one, who has long been a leader and a spokesperson for improving the human rights situation in Tunisia.)

Rob Prince is the publisher of the Colorado Progressive Jewish News.