While it is hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis and hospitals lack oxygen, Tunisia is sinking deeper into the crisis. The President of the Republic, Kaïs Saïed, decided Sunday July 25 to freeze the activities of the Parliament, and thanked the Prime Minister, Hichem Mechichi. His decision satisfied many Tunisians, but the majority party in Parliament likened him to a “Rebellion”.
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To everyone’s surprise, the President of the Republic of Tunisia announced on Sunday the “suspension of the work of Parliament” for a period of 30 days. “I took decisions that the situation requires in order to save Tunisia, the State and the Tunisian people”, said Kaïs Saïed following an emergency meeting at the Carthage Palace with officials of the security forces. It uses article 80 of the Tunisian constitution, which provides for this possibility in the event of “imminent peril” for “the nation or the security or independence of the country”.
In the process, he also dismissed Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi from his post. Kaïs Saïed thus takes the head of the executive power “with the help of a government” which he will be responsible for the composition, he said. He also recovers the head of the national prosecution.
By activating article 80 of the Constitution, Kais Saied wants to end the instability in the country and the permanent political blockage. The disagreements between the President of the Republic and the President of the Parliament paralyzed the management of the country and the public authorities. Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi was not appointed until September 2020, making him the third head of government in less than a year.
To understand how the country ended up in such a political crisis, you have to look back two years. If the 2019 presidential election sees the victory of Kaïs Saïed, an independent and rather progressive candidate, elected with more than 72% of the votes, legislative elections do not make it possible to constitute an absolute majority. “IThere is no clear majority that can guide both parliament and government decisions at the same time. It is this absence of a clear political majority that fed the institutional blockage “, explains on franceinfo Béligh Nabli, associate researcher at Sciences Po’s International Research Center (Ceri).
“It is less an ideological confrontation than a confrontation of those in power. The issue is really to know who actually exercises power within a regime whose nature is quite complex, in particular because that the Constitution is recent, democracy young “, continues Béligh Nabli.
Indeed, the current Tunisian regime has only been in place since 2011 after ex-president Ben Ali was ousted from power during the Jasmine revolution. The current Constitution is even more recent, adopted in 2014. She provides for a mixed parliamentary system, in which the President of the Republic has only limited prerogatives, mainly in the areas of diplomacy and security. With this event, the young democracy is looking for itself, “to know if the Tunisian political regime is rather presidential or parliamentary”, to analyse Beligh Nabli.
The party close to the Islamists, Ennahdha, does not mince words after the presidential announcements. “VSWhat Saïed did is a coup that the activists of the Ennahdha party and the Tunisian people will be able to fight “, assured on Facebook, according to comments reported by the daily The Tunisian Press, thehe President of Parliament, Rached Ghannouchi. He also criticizes Kais Saied for not having consulted him before taking such a decision, contrary to what Article 80 of the Constitution provides.
Rached Ghannouchi began a sit-in in front of the chamber on Monday morning, in the company of his vice-president, and several other deputies of the Ennahdha party, specifies The Tunisian Press. They wanted to enter Parliament, but were prevented from doing so by the army, deployed on site. Other parties, members of the coalition led by Ennahdha, such as Qalb Tounes and the nationalist Islamist movement Karama reacted and condemned the presidential announcements.
The throwing of bottles and stones has been raining since Monday morning in front of the Parliament in Tunis. Several hundred supporters of President Saïed prevent supporters ofEnnahdha to get closer to Rached Ghannouchi. The Qatari television channel Al Jazeera announces for its part that police officers closed its office in Tunis on Monday, after having expelled all journalists there.
The decisions of Kaïs Saïed come after large-scale demonstrations that enamelled the country on Sunday, the feast of the Republic. Thousands of Tunisians took to the streets to express their discontent with the government in power. The premises and symbols of the Ennahdha party were targeted by the demonstrators.
The discontent is also linked to the lack of anticipation and coordination of the executive in the face of the health crisis, leaving Tunisia short of oxygen. With nearly 18,000 deaths for 12 million inhabitants, the country has one of the worst official death rates in the world in this Covid-19 pandemic. The country has known three different health ministers since the start of the health crisis.