Since he announced his “special” measures on July 25-initially for 30 days but can be extended-Tunisian civil society actors and political participants have been putting pressure on President Keith Said. Ask them to propose a new “road map.” But this is no easy task.
Said himself has high hopes for the “new political process”. The Tunisian hopes that he can quickly appoint a new government – people like Taoufik Charefeddine and Nizar Yaiche who are accused of being the leaders of the new cabinet may step down, Reform the electoral system, hold a referendum to establish a presidential system, fight corruption, and so on.
This is happening on the basis of complex crises such as the pandemic, economic downturn, rising debt, youth unemployment and general dissatisfaction with the social and economic conditions of the people. In fact, even before the turmoil on July 25, Tunisia’s problems were already increasing.
Executing anti-corruption without destroying Tunisia’s young democracy?
Ending corruption — and holding accountable those responsible — is another difficult task facing the president now. It must involve prosecutors, judges and other established legal and political actors. Some organizations of the Tunisian General Trade Union (UGTT), football clubs, countless celebrities, and many parliamentarians all exude corruption.
Sitting in Said’s interrogation chair was the entire revolution, which gave birth to the entire revolution, process, system, and political participants.
The question is: how can one perform all these legal accounting without disrupting the process itself? Especially because Article 87 of the 2014 Constitution granted him judicial immunity during his tenure.
As the case is announced day by day, the danger of the “Kangaroo Court” is imminent. The arrest of politicians has begun. Said seems to have fast-tracked several cases that are already in progress. For example, the Yassin Ayari case, which was suddenly restarted in 2018, has attracted a lot of criticism. Other arrests include the arrest of Faysal Tibini, a member of the House of Representatives, on charges of “defamation.” Therefore, Said’s cancellation of parliamentary immunity has made room for a series of cases, not all of which involve corruption.
In addition, Said himself is also distributing favors. Hichem Mechichi-Prime Minister Said who was fired on July 25-was initially his choice. Collective responsibility is in place.
For a year and a half, the president refused to work within the new democratic system, separation of powers and its procedures. For example, he passed the constitutional right to submit bills to Parliament. He rejected legislative decisions, including recent attempts to form a constitutional court. Now, he is seeking to work on the democratic system, claiming that he is actually trying to restore it.
In addition to corruption, Said is also trying to solve long-term difficult problems, such as the interruption of Gafsa Phosphate’s production, and a serious crisis-a pandemic. Said is trying to single-handedly solve these high-profile issues. He seems to be sending a message: “I am doing something that Parliament and the government cannot or do not want to do.”
The trap of power struggle
The president seems to be working towards four different goals. The first is to reform the political system and increase the power of the president, possibly by re-adjusting the 1959 Constitution revised in 1976. Second, deploy a series of legal strategies to weaken some political parties, such as the Kuomintang and Qalb Tunes (QT), the largest party in the National Assembly. This can be done through the Tunisian Court of Auditor’s 2020 report on illegal funding (including the 2019 elections). Third, reduce the old system and elites supported by corruption. Fourth, solve social equity and distribution issues. According to reports, at the President’s call, food prices have fallen.
Said’s political conspiracy and the use of his legal expertise to achieve his goals proceeded at a dizzying speed. They risk jeopardizing the just-initiated democratic transition.
The principle of separation of powers was inserted into Tunisia’s 2014 constitution deliberately to ensure that the country smoothly moves from one-man rule to a power-sharing arrangement among different elected actors. Said, a constitutional lecturer, undoubtedly realized this a little.
Despite this, he is now facing charges that he planned a “coup d’état” inside the president’s office. He is taking these allegations seriously-which is why he has been asking civil society groups for help to get them involved. Some of these groups and UGTT are drafting their own roadmaps for submission to the President.
Said hopes to decorate the presidency with the powers he believes should be given to the president-he wants to replace the dual administrative system with a full presidential system. Currently, the constitution prohibits this possibility. Said seems to believe that with the support of civil society, he can still realize his vision. However, he forgot that Tunisia’s transition to democracy was partly due to the people’s desire to decentralize political power.
Said’s seizure of power on July 25 violated several core principles of the Tunisian revolution and democratization process:
- Continuing law-judicial democratic transition
- A civilian government that does not allow the military to participate in politics under any circumstances
- Inclusive dialogue with Tunisian political parties and stakeholders, Said has repeatedly postponed
Restoring social peace and correcting democratic governance by supervising multi-level tasks—prosecutors, presidents, and constitutional lawyers—is not particularly promising in a democratic country that is just starting out.
Not the Sisi coup, but the “people’s coup”
Said’s actions in Tunisia on July 25 and the coup launched by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Egypt in 2013 have one thing in common: they both adopted the Fictitious interpretation of the constitution is possible.
Nevertheless, there are some essential differences between these two events. What happened in Egypt was a direct coup led by the military. However, what is still happening in Tunisia is the result of a struggle between the executive, the president and the parliament.
In Tunisia, the democratic gains brought about by the revolution have gained a firm foothold. If Said fails to deliver on his ambitious promises or tries to disrupt the country’s democratization process in the long run, the people of Tunisia will follow Said after 10 years of democratic transition. For now, a series of failures by the government and parliamentarians united the large number of people behind the Said measures.
Therefore, Said has always insisted that what happened on July 25 was “not a coup.” In a speech he was invited to the Presidential Palace to give reporters from the New York Times, he also insisted that he had not become a “dictator.”
The fact that the President met with civil society groups showed that he realized that Tunisians would not accept an Egyptian coup in their country. In fact, Tunisia’s powerful civil society, including the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, a coalition of Tunisian civil society organizations that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015, is already asking for guarantees, as if the 2014 constitution no longer provides such The guarantee is that the president will abide by the law, respect individual rights, and risk returning to the democratic process according to his one-month schedule. So far, important players have extended the benefits of skepticism to Said-but only for now.
What will happen next is anyone’s guess.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.