Tunisian crisis continues amid revelation of new administration – World Peace Organization
On July 25, Tunisian President Kais Saied seized executive power and suspended elected parliamentarians. More than two months later, he announced a new administration and was sworn in on September 29 and October 11 to some ministers, including Najla Bouden as Tunisia’s first female prime minister. Agence France Presse in Tunis reported that, in a post-ceremony speech on October 11, Saied vowed to “cleanse the justice system” and “save the Tunisian state from the clutches of those in hiding at home and abroad, and those who see their office as a booty or as a means to plunder public funds. Reuters reported as Saied also said, “I am convinced that we will move from frustration to hope.”
Saied, a former law scholar, was initially elected in 2019, as was the still suspended parliament. In recent weeks, in an effort to build support, he has published photographs of altercations inside the parliamentary chamber, calling the parliament “violence, bloodshed and insults”. according to to Reuters. In addition, IWatch, a Tunisian anti-corruption watchdog, recently denounced a number of MPs who avoided prosecution and prison terms because of their parliamentary immunity. Citing this as evidence, Saied maintains that he acted under article 80 of the 2014 constitution, which empowers the president to take exceptional action in light of the “imminent peril” Tunisia faces. Yet critics have pointed out that his inability to consult parliament and its president, Ennahda party leader Rachid Ghannouchi, describes the move as a coup. Among opponents, there are fears that Saied’s intervention signals a return to the authoritarian system present in Tunisia before its 2011 revolution, the first of the so-called Arab Spring. Among supporters, there is a fair celebration in Saied’s recovery of the revolution from the corrupt political elite, which is widely regarded as having perpetuated “years of political stagnation and paralysis.”
a survey published by La Presse at the end of July showed support for Saied’s intervention hovering around 87%. Amid the stagnation of the months that followed, however, support gradually waned, with increasing numbers of Tunisians anxious for the promised transformation. On October 10, 6,000 people gathered in central Tunis to demonstrate against Saïed. While Saied plans to amend the 2014 constitution by popular referendum, he gave few details on the date of a “real dialogue” with the Tunisian people. In response, foreign donors, powerful internal actors such as the UGTT union and other political opponents continue to pressure Saied to announce a timetable and increase political transparency.
The use of parliamentary impunity as a motive for government overhaul certainly gives Saied some legitimacy. But delays in establishing new administrative protocols and questions surrounding the underlying constitutionality of its actions shroud the future with uncertainty. Saied has so far failed to substantially cope with the economic crisis, marked by soaring debt, high inflation and crippling unemployment and exacerbated by the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. As senior official of the UGTT, Sami Tahri Recount Reuters, “Public finances must be an urgent priority. As major reforms need broad agreement and take time… this cannot be the task of a transitional government.
When it comes to ideology, Saied is a social conservative who supports the death penalty and opposes gay rights and equal inheritance for women. These beliefs could influence future constitutional changes and pose a significant risk to the rights of women and other minorities across the country. As Bouden’s appointment as prime minister – the first woman to hold the post not only in Tunisia but in any Arab country – has sparked global interest, many wonder how she will support the interests of Tunisian women. in the future. In a recent interview with the Guardian, Sara Medini, political analyst at Tunisian feminist organization Aswat Nissa, commented: “The fact that a woman has been nominated is excellent; it’s a step forward [and] he breaks with the stereotype. But that’s not enough… She has a lot of work to do. This need is made all the more evident by the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Gender Inequality Index. From 2006 to 2020, even amid the changes brought about by the 2011 revolution, Tunisia went from 90th to 124th. Although, as of yet, Bouden has not widely disclosed his goals, whether feminist or otherwise. Rather loosely, she identified the fight against corruption and “restoring hope” as her main concerns.
As long as the exceptional measures remain invoked, Saied holds the ultimate authority. With that in mind, it is possible that every newly appointed minister – including Bouden – is little more than a pawn in, as Medini put it, Saied’s “organic conception of power”. That is why the promised popular referendum, which would allow registered voters to force a public vote on proposed constitutional amendments, must take place immediately. And, perhaps most importantly, Saied needs to allow enough time for citizens to vote – taking into account any potential barriers to access – before the proposed changes are definitely implemented, especially those that will have an impact. impact on women, minority groups and young people.
Of course, there are challenges associated with this form of direct democracy, as the votes are often dominated by those with strong feelings and special interests. But, as evidenced by the in-person and online protests, the voices of the Tunisian people are rising, recalling the strong legacy of civil society that has shaped Tunisia through multiple iterations of political systems and leadership. Ideally, Saied and his administration will support public forums before the popular referendum. If they don’t, activists and citizens who protest political corruption, police brutality, unemployment and continued economic decline will nonetheless retain their in-person and online platforms as well as hope for more achievement. substantial democracy.
Democracy also depends on a separation of political powers. Although idealized in post-revolutionary reconstruction, the true separation was never fully established. With that in mind, Saied cannot delay ratifying a constitutional court any longer if he aims to avoid the same impunity used to justify his seizure of power in the first place. This will provide the necessary space to settle disagreements between the president and parliament and to monitor and balance the actions of the two. In addition, parliament must be re-established, with new MPs to replace those identified in the IWatch report.
Finally, from the perspective of the economy, Saied and his finance ministers must resume discussions with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a rescue plan. Not only will this aid help tackle subsidies, the high public sector wage bill and the impacts of high unemployment, it could also lead to other bilateral assistance agreements that will further contribute to the post-pandemic recovery. . Given the context of French colonial rule and its enduring violence, Saied is naturally wary of foreign intervention. However, at this precarious stage, the well-being of the Tunisian economy and people must prevail over resistance to debt bailouts by international donors. To restore hope, as both Saied and Bouden have argued, these changes must be pursued immediately.