The president decides not to restore democracy in the country and indefinitely extends the suspension of Parliament
he decision of President Kaïes Saied not to reestablish democratic mechanisms in Tunisia liquidates the restoration of the rule of law in the Maghreb country, the only institutional achievement of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’. The decision, transmitted yesterday to the media, has not really surprised, given the abysmal differences between the head of the Executive and the Government, with an Islamist majority, and the difficult situation that the republic suffers. The president’s office has ensured that he will address the citizens soon through a televised speech in which he will present his action plan.
The economic and health crisis have led to decisions that lead Tunisia towards an uncertain political future. On July 25, the leader used article 80 of the Constitution, which allows exceptional measures to be applied in serious circumstances, to suspend the Chamber, remove Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and concentrate power in his hands. Then, the assumption of the legal tool was interpreted as a temporary response to the succession of street protests against the painful management of the pandemic and the economic debacle that the territory is suffering.
The presidential order delays “until further notice” the suspension of Parliament and the withdrawal of immunity from its members. This contingency already appeared in the official bulletin that included the measure and that indicated its “extendable condition.” Throughout these four weeks, four members of the ruling Ennahda party have been prosecuted, although the most important decision, in order to strengthen Saied’s position, is the appointment of his adviser Ridha Gharsallaoui as the new Interior Minister.
The application of the norm generated controversy a month ago and its duration was questioned, in principle legally limited to the following thirty days. The new strongman of Tunisia will argue the current conjuncture to explain the political scenario that he has created. The disastrous management of the pandemic and the economic debacle provoked a succession of street demonstrations that culminated in its step forward. But the situation has been deeply unstable throughout the last ten years of the constitutional stage. Job insecurity and administrative corruption have been the trigger for continuous mobilizations and the discredit of the political elite, both secular and religiously inspired.
The magnitude of the discontent is evident in the popular reaction. A month ago, Saied’s decision aroused official rejection from the European Union and the United States, but there was no outcry in the streets. Although the Islamist hosts called demonstrations of rejection, they soon demanded its interruption and called for dialogue, aware of internal weaknesses. A few days ago, the formation announced the renewal of its board of directors “to face the new situation”, a position that, above all, feeds the suspicion of dissent at this stage.
The rise of Kaïes Saied exemplifies the turbulent recent history of Tunisia. This academic and jurist, an expert in Constitutional Law, was unknown until his emergence in the political arena as a candidate in the 2019 presidential elections. Despite having limited financial means, his anti-corruption agenda won the favor of the youngest and gave him the victory. Although Ennahda supported him in the second round and both share ultra-conservative social positions, their relationship has led to direct confrontation.