Former Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi accepts the dismissal and will facilitate the transfer of power to a new head of Government
The ruling Ennahdha party has made a sharp change in strategy in the crisis that has hit Tunisia since Sunday. The denunciation of the coup d’état perpetrated by the president, Rais Saied, has given way to a conciliatory statement by the former prime minister, Hichem Mechichi, in which he accepts the dismissal and shows his willingness to facilitate the transfer of power to a new head of Government. In addition, the Islamist formation has asked its followers not to participate in the demonstrations called in the main cities of the Maghreb country and calls for dialogue to seek an agreed solution to the conflict.
The temporizing attitude is explained in a convulsive context in which the current ruling class, although backed by the ballot box, has lost its credibility. After Saied’s intervention, public opinion is polarized between the defenders of the Constitution and those who support the presidential measures and who demand radical changes. The call for an agreement by the ruling elite, of Islamist affiliation, seems to respond, preventively, to the broad wave of rejection that has caused both its management of the crisis derived from the pandemic and its ineffectiveness in facing the economic recession it is suffering the country.
The recognition of the failure of the ruling elites is one of the most surprising revelations of Mechichi’s speech, released yesterday through Facebook. The former prime minister claims to understand the desperation of the citizens and even acknowledged the existence of “great disparities” between what the people want and the priorities of the parties.
The Tunisian Assembly is very fragmented politically, although there is an alignment around the Islamist orbit and secular positions. Among other confessions in the network, the former leader has come to admit that the public administration is bordering on bankruptcy.
The short-term holding of simultaneous elections of a legislative and presidential nature is the alternative that Ennahdha proposes to get out of this scenario and “guarantee the protection of the democratic process and prevent any delay from serving as a pretext for maintaining an autocratic regime.” The intention of President Saied seems, a priori, very far from this possibility, since, until now, he has been very critical of the hosts of Rachid Ghannouchi and his compromises to remain in power.
Its reluctance to compromise explains the process of distancing itself from Islamists, once supporters of its political pretensions. This dissent has led him to a position of direct confrontation in recent months. In addition to dispensing with Mechichi, the country’s new strongman has suspended the activity of Parliament and has promised to elect a new head of government. However, their position is very complex within the path imposed by the fundamental law. The president has the power to suspend parliamentary activity, but, after 30 days, the Constitutional Court must decide whether to extend its term. Unfortunately, this assumption is in limbo since the legal institution has not been launched.
The choice of Mechichi’s successor may shed light on the course. The omens point to a technocrat, like his predecessor, without a very determined political affiliation. The 63-year-old Saied’s ideology is anyone’s guess. This academic of Law and professor at the Faculty of Legal and Political Sciences is as conservative in social matters as the religious side, but less explicit in the economic sphere. After assuming all the prerogatives of the Executive, it has decreed a curfew until August 27, and the prohibition of meetings of more than three people in public spaces.