The head of Tunisia’s Ennahda party, the largest in the country, on Thursday called for a “peaceful” struggle against the “absolute one-man rule” of Kais Saied. Ghannouchi also reiterated its willingness to work with other parties and forces in Tunisia to return the country back onto a path of democracy, arguing that these manoeuvres would hopefully force the country’s fragmented political system to unite. He also stated that the country was in a worse situation than it had been in prior to the July 25 coup, and that Saied’s decisions were returning the country back to a regime of dictatorship.
Ghannouchi’s statement came after a new set of decrees, published by Saied on Wednesday, maintaining his control over the country, and asserting that government would report to him instead of a Prime Minister. The decrees also continue to uphold the revocation of immunity for members of parliament, who have now even had their salaries frozen.
In response, four other parties, Attayar, Al Jouhmouri, Akef and Ettakatol, issued a statement opposing Saied’s new decrees. “We consider the president has lost his legitimacy by violating the constitution… and he will be responsible for all the possible repercussions of this dangerous step,” the four parties said in the statement.
Tunisia was thrown into political turmoil following President Kais Saied’s suspension of parliament on July 25. Saied has since ruled the country without any checks and balances, with members of parliament being arrested and travel bans instituted on possible dissidents. Speaking to Aljazeera, Ahlem Hachicha, a Tunis-based political analyst, described the situation as one of “absolute, unquestionable power” to the president. Hachicha said, “After Saied put the whole country on hold for about two months, he has now produced a set of rules that basically says he holds every form of power, over every aspect of the private life of citizens, ruling over every public and private institution, with no form of checks and balances.” She further argued that this was a reverse of the 2011 struggle, and that most will remember the struggle and its aspirations.
Tunisia has been in a stalemate since 2011, with numerous constitutional changes of power. Its political system has fostered political fragmentation, with the result being an inability to implement solutions to revive its sluggish economy. Unemployment is higher now when compared to 2011, with the coronavirus also drastically impacting the country, especially its tourism sector.
Saied remains popular with many of the youth believing that the country’s political structure needs to be overhauled in order to implement policies to revive the country’s economy. Further, many have been frustrated by the constant changes of government, which are a direct result of its political structure and the ‘secularist’ aspirations of its powerful general trade union (UGTT), which itself has opposed Saied’s latest moves. A 2014 constitution allows for a parliamentary system, with severely limited powers for the president, which Saied continues to shun. Saied’s most recent decrees are increasingly disillusioning his supporters, with Attayar, a party which was close to him, endorsing the statement objecting to his power-grab. Protests have been called for Sunday, by Ennahda amongst others. However, this currently does not look likely to force the president to change course, especially since most Tunisians have become weary and apathetic.