Tunisia, the political and economic crisis divides the country. And the president excluded the parties from the “national dialogue” project

Hundreds of protesters alighted in Avenue Bourghiba squarein the capital Tunis, on Sunday 8 May to show their support for the president Kais Saied. “Judge them today” and “The people want Ghannouchi in prison” were the slogans that the protesters shouted, referring to the leader of the Islamic party Ennahda and president of Parliament, but also to the entire political class and its representatives, judged corrupt and not suitable for governing. For weeks political unrest they continue to shake the country, fueled by divisions and an economy in crisis. The president promised to have it drawn up a new Constitution and to submit it to a referendum this year, followed by the election of a new Parliament. And many saw him as the man who will finally free the country from the corrupt political legacy of the era before the 2011 revolution.

Tunisia has been experiencing in recent months a serious political and constitutional crisis with two fronts in open contrast to each other: on the one hand the head of state Kais Saiedwhich dissolved the Parliament on 30 March last (but whose works had already been suspended since 25 July 2021) and which has expanded its power by governing by decree since last September, and on the other the Parliament itself, an expression of the entire political spectrum of the country and at the head of which is the Islamic party Ennahda. The people were also divided between those who support the president, thus judging the parties as corrupt and ineffective at the head of the country, and those who fear a return to the situation prior to the Jasmine Revolution of 2010when all power was in the hands of Ben Ali.

Kais Saied, elected in 2019, is in fact accused of carrying out a real coup against the democratic and constitutional institutions born, and then strengthened, with the Arab Spring. As already mentioned, Saied has indeed Parliament suspended on July 25 last. On the same day he had fired the prime minister Hichem Mechichi and two months later he had signed a provision that allowed him to govern by decree, without therefore having to go through Parliament and centralizing the executive and legislative powers on himself. Then in December he announced a constitutional referendum for a new fundamental law that should replace the 2014 one. At the beginning of February he finally decided to dissolve the Superior Council of the Judiciaryvirtually concentrating on itself all the three powers that characterize a liberal democracy.

On May 2, President Saied opened to civil society, announcing the start of a “national dialogue” from which, however, all political parties that it considers responsible for the political-economic crisis that is shaking the country will be excluded. In a speech delivered for the Muslim holiday of Eid which marks the end of Ramadan, Saied indicated that a commission “will manage the national dialogue”a measure invoked several times by the G7 countries and the EU after its coup d’état of 25 July 2021. Four organizations will participate in the dialogue: the Ugtt unionthe Utica employer organization, the Tunisian League for Human Rights (Ltdh) and the Bar Association. This is the “QuartetWho received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015 for his contribution to the democratic transition in Tunisia.

The exclusion of parties it certainly weakens the democratic path, making the work in progress for total state reform vulnerable. Tunisia is in fact becoming a country in which the opposition is no longer allowed room for dialogue. In the ranking of press freedom in the world published by Reporters Without Borders for 2022, Tunisia it was ranked 94th, down 21 places from the previous year. For RSF, the reasons for the deterioration of the North African country are due to the exceptional measures announced by the president Saied July 25, 2021, considering that the legislation governing the sector “remains incomplete and provides only minimal protection for journalists and the media”.

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