Tunisia – The Leader of Tayyar al Mahabba and former Presidential candidate Mohamed El-Hechmi Hamdi, has called for protests in solidarity with the unemployed.
In a march called ‘National Day for the unemployed and unemployment benefit’, Hamdi repeats a recurrent theme in his politics which he summarised during his presidential campaign as the need for a “health service, unemployment benefit, and free transport for the elderly”. Tunisia continues to struggle economically as unemployment levels remain high, particularly amongst the youth. This is believed to have contributed to a rise in extremism as groups have targeted disenfranchised youths within society to join their operations within Tunisia and Libya. With the government taking a firmer stance against terrorism, many are stressing the need to improve the economy and provide employment opportunities to counter extremism.
The Dark Horse
Amidst accusations of populism and making ‘fanciful’ promises, Hamdi stormed the presidential elections, beginning as an outsider with limited resources and ending up winning fourth place behind Hamma al-Hammami, Moncef Marzouki and eventual winner Beji Caid Sibsi. More importantly, Hamdi secured Sidi Bouzid, a symbolic victory given the city’s role as the birthplace of the Tunisian revolution and subsequent Arab Spring. With his recent call for reconciliation and the need for greater unity, Hamdi appears to be drawing in former RCD supporters who continue to form a sizeable bloc, along with the inner regions vote with which his local dialect has resonated with many of the disenfranchised youth and unemployed. Analysts privately suggest that the combination of these two groups could potentially put Hamdi as a genuine contender in the next presidential elections.
(Picture courtesy of Houssem Hammedi)