UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official website] on Monday urged government leaders in Tunisia to initiate dialogue between all sides in an attempt to restore rule of law in the country following the ousting of its president [JURIST report] last week. In a press conference [transcript] held in Abu Dhabi, where Ban was attending a global energy forum, he cited the most recent bouts of violence and subsequent loss of lives and property as pressing reasons for the prompt restoration of political stability. To establish a successful and long-lasting rule of law, Ban encouraged leaders to consider and work to accommodate the social and economic needs of the Tunisian citizens, whose protests have been attributed to the rising prices of necessities, a decline in available employment opportunities and allegations of corruption and restrictions on their rights and freedoms. He also encouraged the international community to support Tunisia and its leaders during this time, which he described as "a moment for the Tunisian people to strengthen the country's longstanding culture of political moderation and its attachment to peace."
The Tunisia Constitutional Council officially announced [JURIST report] last week that President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali [official website] had permanently left the office of the president. The council, the country's highest legal authority on constitutional issues, declared that the leader of the lower house of parliament, Foued Mebezza, will assume power [AFP report] until elections are held in two months. The council made its ruling at the request of Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi [Reuters profile] and based its ruling on article 57 of the constitution, declaring a "definitive" vacation of the presidency. Before flying out of Tunis to seek refuge in Saudi Arabia, Ben Ali signed a decree granting interim presidential powers to Ghannouchi, attempting to leave open the possibility of returning to office. Mebezza took the oath of office [Al Jazeera report] on Saturday and according to the council he should organize new presidential elections within 60 days.