WorldTunisia / politics: Saïed the "popular", almost alone against all (Analysis) *

Tunisia / politics: Saïed the “popular”, almost alone against all (Analysis) *

AA / Tunis / Slah Grichi **

After 55 days of the exceptional measures he took on July 25, dismissing the head of government, suspending the activities of Parliament and lifting the immunity of its members, the President of the Republic did nothing in depth, to change the situation of political, social and above all economic blockage in the country, decried by all Tunisians and which allowed it to interpret, with “largesse”, Article 80 of the Constitution which authorizes it to act, “in case of imminent danger”, under conditions that he has at least overstepped, according to the majority of jurists, politicians and even his supporters. But his decisions so relieved the large part of the population, including a large fringe of civil society and economic and political actors who wanted to end the crisis, with a government and its supporters … with a Parliament which, by its fragmented composition was a source of problems and not of solutions.

Also, the voices which shouted for a “coup” were clearly dominated by those which relied on the popular legitimacy, in the absence of legality, of what Kais Saïed – elected by nearly 80 % of votes in the second round of the presidential election, after its 18% of the first, as well as on the urgent need to get the country out of the doldrums where it was stuck. The President could get down to the task, more or less frank, having no opposition capable of obstructing his path. Because even the traditional partners of Tunisia (European Union and USA, in particular) who did not appreciate the “freezing” of the Parliament, broadly expressed their “understanding as for the importance of finding solutions to the particular situation and difficult that Tunisia is going through, hoping that it gets back, as soon as possible, on the path of the democratic process and that the institutions, in particular the Parliament, recover their activity “. A sort of “wait and see”, or more exactly “a conditional green light”. A position already taken by many organizations, including major ones such as the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT), the Employers’ Center, the League of Human Rights, the Bar Association …, as well as by several parties, including those opposed to Saïed, including the PDL (free destourien party) of Abir Moussi.

– Expectations and disillusion

Only since July 25, nothing has been undertaken, with a view to a structural change to improve the socio-economic situation, which is worsening day by day, to create projects capable of bringing new wealth and reabsorbing , to some extent, unemployment which peaks at unprecedented rates. As for his projects for the political and institutional future, it was the most opaque vagueness.

To his credit anyway a clear improvement and an almost sufficiency in anti-coronary vaccines. We note, in parallel, the dismissal of three or four ministers (including two interim) and many governors, changes in key positions of the Interior, especially, unannounced visits here and there, to reveal small examples of speculation and take the opportunity to deliver his speeches, which have become customary, in which he announces his desire to oppose “all those who steal and impoverish the people, the corrupt and the traitors of the nation”. In the meantime and under various grievances (let’s say it, legally justified) some deputies are arrested, politicians, the former president of the bar of lawyers and president of the Body for the fight against corruption and a former minister are assigned to a “flexible” residence supervised, being authorized to move within a radius of 60 kilometers, businessmen are prevented from freely traveling (measure lifted recently, except for those having trouble with justice), while bigwigs of corruption and smuggling are free.

Better, or worse, no big file on the financing of associations or electoral campaigns has yet been opened, despite damning reports from justice or control bodies. It is in this climate, that positions began to change and patience to run out, especially as regards the appointment of a head of government (a government already truncated, several departments being without ministers) and the return of the democratic process, because “the exceptional where the president decides alone, cannot last. The very existence of the State would be in danger”, hammered, two weeks ago, Sami Tahri, assistant secretary general and spokesperson of the UGTT. Ditto for several organizations and parties. For its part, the European Union raised its tone, threatening, with barely covered words, to call into question its partnership with Tunisia, if things stopped there and if the democratic bodies did not resume service. American senators had, a few days earlier, adopted practically the same position.

– A decree confirms a speech

To this pressure, more and more palpable, Kais Saïed who hesitated on the kind of project of reorganization of the public powers, to submit to the Tunisians, could not remain more silent, even if he launched a test balloon, to through his advisor Walid Hajjem, who declared, nearly three weeks ago, that the President was heading towards a change of the regime which would become presidential and towards the referendum, without specifying the procedures, gathering skepticism and questions.

Last Monday, as we know, the president unveiled his project. It extends the exceptional period, intends to announce transitional provisions, change the Electoral Code for a new Parliament and “go to the sovereignty of the people” (Editor’s note: hear referendum). The appointment of a head of government is not, according to him, the priority.

This is the essence of his speech of Monday, September 20, which caused much ink to flow and which he “confirmed” yesterday Wednesday, by the publication of a presidential decree with new provisions, most of which consists in the suspension of the provisional body for the control of the constitutionality of laws, in the pursuit of the activities of the State, in accordance with the preamble of the Constitution, its articles 1 and 2 and all those which are not in contradiction with exceptional measures. A way of remaining within the framework of the Constitution of 2014. Moreover and according to the same decree, the Head of State reserves the responsibility of making amendments concerning the political reforms to be introduced, with the help of a commission that he will designate by decree.

A curtain-raiser which does not show all of the decor that Saïed intends to install, but which nevertheless reveals its orientation – for the moment at least – to go it alone, without prior consultations with the parties or large organizations national. And even if he integrates them into the commission, it will be “his”, since the role of its members that he “will appoint” will be limited to bringing him “help”. This will not be to the taste of his detractors and the majority of political actors, including his allies, starting with his unconditional secretary general of the Echaâb Movement (the people) who, while approving yesterday’s decree, has just called Saïed to involve “the national forces and organizations in the decisions to be taken and to fix the dates for the elections”.

Anyway, this decree fits into the logic of his speech last Monday, which aroused a lot of reactions, both in substance and in form. Indeed and beyond the unusual nervousness of Saïed and his habitual tendency to put all his detractors in the same bag, he did not speak only to Tunisians, but to all the partners of the country: “Let the world l ‘hear … “. What he could have avoided, according to many observers, especially since what he wants to undertake is not, according to them, particularly constitutional.

– Controversies …

In any case, this is what Mohamed Mokhtar, constitutional professor, for whom transitional procedures amount to a suspension of the Constitution, declares. “However, no political solution can be conceived apart from the latter which was the basis for the election of the president,” he explains. And to add that if Saïed, through a “permissive” interpretation, found in article 80 a justification to take the exceptional measures on July 25, he is now “prisoner”, since he cannot, objectively and constitutionally, neither to amend nor to suspend the Constitution, in order to introduce the changes it aims, let alone dissolve Parliament.

This opinion is widely shared, even if the Echaâb Movement or the Democratic Current, loyal to Saïed, expressed their support for everything that came in the President’s speech. Zouhaier Maghzaoui, secretary general of Echaâb even asserts that this would restore the revolutionary process within the framework of the Constitution, before the new government devotes itself to socio-economic reforms. It relies on the advice of jurists for popular legitimacy can be considered, in exceptional cases, superior to constitutional legitimacy. They are contradicted in this by the majority of their colleagues for whom moving towards transitional arrangements would mean that Saïed exercises alone and freely the powers, legislative and executive, by simple presidential decrees.

An opinion shared by, among others, Mohsen Marzouk, president of Machrou ‘Tounès “, who fears that Saïed will institute new laws to his measure and to his liking and transform the electoral code and the political landscape, excluding whoever he wants , which is the form of totalitarianism, par excellence.
Ennahdha, through its president, Rached Ghannouchi, rejects all the measures taken by the President of the Republic, especially his last decree which, for him, is an outright abolition of the Constitution. Abdellatif Mekki who goes in the same direction, adds that Saïed wants “neither more nor less to seize all the powers”.

Fadhel Abdelkéfi, secretary general of Afek (horizons) Tounès, affirms that the head of state must realize that the real “imminent danger” is of a socio-economic nature, “an aspect that he seems to obscure or relegate to the background, whereas it should be the priority of its priorities, so decisive it is, in this period of crisis, “he said.

The secretary general of the Tunisian General Labor Union, Noureddine Taboubi, goes further by asserting that the socio-economic does not wait, which the President must achieve, hence the urgency of the appointment of a government and its leader. And to add: “the unity of the Tunisian people cannot be endangered and it is the responsibility of Saïed who, moreover, must not act outside the constitutional framework, or without the participation of the broadest components possibilities of Tunisian society.

Abir Moussi, president of the Free Destourien Party (PDL) which is ahead of everyone in the polls for the legislative elections, accuses the President’s entourage of pushing him towards error, through false interpretations of the laws so that he opts for illegal transitional provisions which would deprive it of all legitimacy, whether constitutional or popular. She also warns against possible “legal” entanglements which would only have as an end her ousting, she and her party, from the political landscape.

Clearly, Saïed is not in a comfortable situation, as the crisis is multidimensional and the projects are multiple. However, as popular as he is, he has an obligation to appease political and civil society actors, many of whom do not adhere to his choices. The foreign partners that Tunisia needs, either.

* The opinions expressed in this analysis are those of their author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial line of the Anadolu Agency.

** Slah Grichi, journalist, former editor-in-chief of La Presse de Tunisie newspaper.

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