Home News President Saied: ‘Superman’ or voice of Tunisia’s downtrodden?

President Saied: ‘Superman’ or voice of Tunisia’s downtrodden?


Since he introduced his “distinctive” measures on July 25 – initially for 30 days, however open to extension – civil society actors and political gamers in Tunisia have been pressuring President Kais Saied to current a brand new “roadmap”. However that is no simple job.

Saied has himself set excessive expectations for a “new political course of”. Tunisians count on him to swiftly identify a brand new authorities – the likes of Taoufik Charefeddine and Nizar Yaiche who’ve been tipped to go the brand new cupboard might decline, reform the electoral system, arrange a referendum to institute a presidential system, deal with corruption and extra.

This comes atop compounded crises of the pandemic, a tanking financial system, rising indebtedness, youth unemployment and fashionable disaffection with the socioeconomic state of affairs. Certainly, issues have been mounting in Tunisia even previous to the jolt that got here on July 25.

Executing anti-corruption with out corrupting Tunisia’s younger democracy?

Ending corruption – and holding these accountable to account – is one other mammoth job now dealing with the president. It essentially includes prosecutors, judges and different established legal-political actors. Elements of the Tunisian Normal Labour Union (UGTT), soccer golf equipment, numerous distinguished people, many members of the parliament, all give off the whiff of corruption.

In Saied’s interrogation chair sits all the revolution, the processes and establishments and political gamers to whom it has given beginning.

The query is that this: How can one man undertake all of this authorized accounting with out corrupting the method itself? Particularly since Article 87 of the 2014 structure grants him judicial immunity whereas in workplace.

The hazard of “kangaroo courts” looms as instances are actually introduced by the day. Arrests of politicians have already begun. Saied appears to have fast-tracked a number of instances already underneath method. The case of Yassin Ayari, out of the blue reactivated from 2018, for instance, has drawn a lot criticism. Different arrests embody that of Faysal Tibini, a member of the Meeting of Representatives, on fees of “defamation”. Saied’s lifting of parliamentary immunity has thus made room for a spread of instances, not all of which contain corruption.

Furthermore, Saied himself distributes favours. Hichem Mechichi – the Prime Minister Saied sacked on July 25 – was initially his alternative. Collective duty is so as.

For a 12 months and a half, the president refused to work throughout the new democratic system, its separation of powers, and its processes. As an illustration, he handed on his constitutional proper to current payments to the parliament. He rejected legislative choices, together with most up-to-date makes an attempt to kind a constitutional courtroom. Now, he’s looking for to work above the democratic system, claiming that he’s truly making an attempt to revive it.

Along with corruption, Saied can be making an attempt to resolve long-intractable issues, akin to disrupted manufacturing on the Gafsa Phosphate Firm, and burning crises – the pandemic. In his makes an attempt to single-handedly tackle these points screaming for consideration, Saied appears to be sending a message, “I’m doing what the parliament and authorities have been unable or unwilling to do.”

Pitfalls of the facility seize

The president seems to be working in the direction of 4 distinct targets. First, overhauling the political system and growing the powers of the president, presumably by readapting the 1959 structure amended in 1976. Second, deploying a collection of authorized ways to weaken some events like  Ennahdha – the largest celebration within the Meeting of Representatives – and Qalb Tounes (QT). This can be carried out through the Tunisian Audit Courtroom’s 2020 report on unlawful funding, together with of the 2019 elections. Third, diminishing the previous institution courses and elite propped up by corruption. Fourth, resolving social justice and distributional points. Meals costs are reported to have fallen, in response to a name by the president.

Saied’s political machinations and use of his authorized experience to achieve his goals proceed with dizzying pace. And so they threat imperilling a fledgling democratic transition.

The precept of separation of powers was inserted into Tunisia’s 2014 structure intentionally to make sure that the nation easily strikes from one-man rule to a power-sharing association amongst completely different elected actors. Saied, a constitutional legislation teacher, is undoubtedly conscious of this.

Nonetheless, he’s now dealing with accusations that he has engineered a “coup” from throughout the very workplace of the presidency. And he takes these accusations critically – because of this he has been courting civil society teams to convey them on board. A number of of those teams and the UGTT are drafting their very own roadmaps to current to the president.

(Un)constitutional legislation 101

Saied needs to deck the presidency with the powers he thinks are on account of it and to him – he desires to switch the twin government system with an solely presidential system. Presently, the structure forbids such an eventuality. Saied seems to be underneath the impression that with the help of civil society, he can nonetheless realise his imaginative and prescient. He forgets, nonetheless, that Tunisia’s transition to democracy was pushed partially by the individuals’s want for the diffusion of political energy.

Saied’s July 25 energy seize goes in opposition to a number of core rules of the Tunisian revolution and democratisation course of:

  • a sustained legal-juridical democratic transition
  • a civilian authorities that doesn’t permit for the military to be drawn into politics underneath any circumstances
  • an inclusive dialogue with Tunisia’s political events and stakeholders, one thing Saied repeatedly delayed

Restoring social peace and correcting democratic governance by overseeing multi-tiered duties – prosecutor, president, constitutional lawyer – usually are not notably promising in a fledgling democracy.

Not a Sisi coup, however a ‘individuals’s coup’

Saeid’s July 25 transfer in Tunisia, and Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s 2013 coup in Egypt had one factor in frequent: They had been each made potential by fabricated readings of the 2 nations’ respective constitutions.

Nonetheless, there are some important variations between the 2 occasions. What occurred in Egypt was a simple coup led by the navy. What remains to be unfolding in Tunisia, nonetheless, is the results of a wrestle between two poles of the manager, and the president and the parliament.

In Tunisia, democratic beneficial properties from the revolution have already taken maintain. Tunisia’s individuals, 10 years into their democratic transition, will likely be after Saied ought to he fail to ship on his formidable guarantees or try and derail the nation’s democratisation in the long run. For now, the litany of failures by authorities and parliamentarians have rallied massive swaths of the individuals behind Saied’s measures.

Thus, Saied has been insistent that what occurred on July 25 was “not a coup”. In his lecture to New York Instances reporters invited to the presidential palace, he additionally insisted that he was not remodeling right into a “dictator”.

And the actual fact that the president is assembly with civil society teams reveals that he’s conscious that Tunisians won’t settle for an Egypt-style coup of their nation. Certainly, Tunisia’s formidable civil society, together with the Tunisian Nationwide Dialogue Quartet – a coalition of Tunisian civil society organisations that was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015 – is already asking for ensures, as if the 2014 structure not gives such ensures, that the president will adhere to the legislation, respect particular person rights, and enterprise again to the democratic course of in keeping with his personal timeline of 1 month. Vital gamers have thus far prolonged to Saied the good thing about the doubt – however just for now.

What occurs subsequent is anybody’s guess.

The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.