Tunisia’s Excluded Opposition Wants In

January 17, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015

SOME PROGRESS: Tunisian presidential bodyguards stand guard by the president's office in Tunis on Jan. 17. Tunisia unveiled today a transitional unity government in which the toppled president's party holds onto all key posts, and announced unprecedented freedoms and the release of all political prisoners. (Fethi Belaid/Getty Images)
SOME PROGRESS: Tunisian presidential bodyguards stand guard by the president's office in Tunis on Jan. 17. Tunisia unveiled today a transitional unity government in which the toppled president's party holds onto all key posts, and announced unprecedented freedoms and the release of all political prisoners. (Fethi Belaid/Getty Images)
Abdelkader Zitouni, leader of the Green Tunisia Party, will meet with interim President Mohammed Ghannouchi on Tuesday to discuss Tunisia’s political crisis—including the recognition of the Greens, denied under the rule of recently ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Ben Ali ruled Tunisia for 23 years, not tolerating criticism or any political dissent. On Dec. 17, Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest unemployment, sparking a month of massive protests. Last Friday, Ben Ali declared a state of emergency, then fled the country.

Before he left, he appointed Prime Minister Ghannouchi interim president, leaving the country with an uncertain future. The Green Tunisia Party, long excluded from government, is hoping to play a part in the new Tunisia.

In April 2004, the Party applied for status under Ben Ali, but was denied. The regime then set up a false Green Party, giving them official status instead.

Internationally, however, the Green Tunisia Party is recognized. The Party is a member of the European Green Party and participates in international party congresses.

The U.S. State Department, on March 3, 2006, recognized the Green Tunisia Party and condemned the regime’s refusal to recognize them.

While Ghannouchi is attempting to cobble together a government, some Tunisians are calling for the departure of the entire old guard government.

Green leader Zitouni, who calls his party the “centerpiece of the opposition,” said in an interview from Tunis he plans to discuss several points with Ghannouchi when they meet.

First, he wants Ben Ali, currently in exile in Saudi Arabia, to be brought to justice.

Next he wants to discuss the current security situation and how to get the country back to normal. The curfew declared by Ben Ali from 5:00 p.m. to 7 a.m. is still in place. Zitouni said that at the moment, schools and business are also still closed.

In terms of looking ahead, Zitouni said he wants to discuss the country’s future and how to create more employment opportunities for the youth—the issue that literally sparked the initial protests. The Green Tunisia leader says he will also raise the problems of air pollution in the capital of Tunis, and of companies that have been dumping toxic waste into the Mediterranean Sea in disregard of regulations under Ben Ali’s rule.

Last weekend, 1,000 troops loyal to Ben Ali were subdued by the army in a fight near the Presidential Palace. Supporters of Ben Ali are suspected to be creating unrest by firing randomly. Gunfire and looting are still being reported by media.

On Monday, Ghannouchi said all political prisoners will be released, according to a tweet from Journalist Sultan Al Qassemi.