Bottom Line: The assassination on 6 February of opposition politician Chokri Belaid, a notable opponent of the Islamist-led government, is the trigger that will push the ongoing political crisis and socio-economic unrest over the edge.
The public response to the shooting of Belaid outside his home in the capital Tunis was immediate and country-wide. Protests, always ongoing, have erupted with a renewed force giving a common voice to what will be a definitive popular uprising. Islamist officials had late last year warned of a military coup, which may now become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Analysis: Unlike Egypt, Tunisia has a secular president, while the government is controlled by Islamic forces. The past few weeks have seen intensified political horse-jockeying over a cabinet reshuffle prompted by an increase in violent strikes and protests across the country. Consensus could not be reached, and attempts to get the Islamist parties to give up key ministries like security and justice failed.
The assassination takes this political conflict to another, irreversible level, and Tunisia offers them a pipeline of weapons and fighters from Libya and elsewhere if the most radical Islamist forces wish to throw in their support. In mid-January, only days before the attack on the Amenas gas facility in Algeria, Tunisia authorities discovered to arms depots in the south, home to Tunisia’s hydrocarbon reserves, and also along the route to Libya. These depots…