A return to the old Tunisia - TAHA KILINÇ

A return to the old Tunisia

On Monday, the referendum on the new Tunisian constitution gave way to its official adoption, granting the president of the republic unlimited powers and providing him with all kinds of legal protection. The text of the new constitution is to give the President of the Republic the powers of absolute authority over the government and the judiciary and to reduce the power of Parliament to become merely symbolic.

In July last year, President Kais Saied announced the dismissal of the government and the freezing and closure of Parliament. Following that decision, he now officially enjoys unlimited powers that he uses de facto. And what happened can be interpreted as a return to an old Tunisia that was marked by authoritarian practices.

The Independent High Authority for Elections in Tunisia announced, in a statement, that the turnout in the referendum on the new constitution, which was boycotted by opposition parties, amounted to 27.54 percent.

The result of the referendum indicated that 92.3 percent of the voting participants said yes at the ballot boxes for the draft constitution proposed by President Kais Saied. These results are certainly reminiscent of the elections that took place in various Arab countries pre-Arab Spring.

What is interesting is that the sham "democracy parade" they put on is solely meant to tell the world "Look, we are holding elections" and the results always exceed 90%.

President Kais Saied, who has been appearing in the streets of Tunisia with his big posters for several days, gave his victory speech after the end of the referendum. The notable and controversial phrase he made during his remarks was, "Anyone who usurps people's rights will pay the price." When we take into account the rumors that topped the news agenda last week about the arrest of Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi, it is expected that Kais Saied will use the power of the constitution and focus on undermining the opposition front, especially Ennahda.

Indeed, sources close to the presidential office announced the preparation of reports indicating that the Ennahda movement played a prominent role in the economic and political crisis in Tunisia.

Kais Saied seeks to silence the voices of all opposition groups, not just Ennahda, which will lead to the loss of pressure on the political movement led by Ghannouchi.

Between 1956-1987, Tunisia was subject to the rule of President Habib Bourguiba, who had a Jacobin secular mindset of the French model, as it was then one of the most repressive regimes in the Islamic world.

Habib Bourguiba was so secular that he tried to ban government and official employees from fasting, and Bourguiba's rule was overthrown by a bloodless (white) coup in the presidential palace carried out by his prime minister, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Ben Ali obtained a medical report confirming Bourguiba's disability and that his mental health prevented him from carrying out the tasks assigned to him and he was dismissed from his position accordingly.

During his rule that extended until 2011, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali always felt his iron grip on state institutions and the people, just like his mentor and master Habib Bourguiba. What was striking is that Tunisia, which was founded on the basis of a security system, was the engine of change over the course of the Arab Spring.

The political, economic, and social crisis in Tunisia has now reached the brink of collapse, and one simple mistake would have led to that disaster.

The details of the stages that Tunisia went through after 2011 are already known to those who follow Tunisian affairs, but I want to highlight a point that was overlooked:

In 2019, President Kais Saied won the presidential election with a record 72 percent of the vote. His opponent in the first round was billionaire businessman Nabil Karoui.

Nabil Karoui had overt French support, which the Ennahda movement viewed as dangerous. On instructions from Ghannouchi in the second round, all the votes of the Ennahda movement went to Kais Saied, who was described as a jurist, politically neutral, and pious. What happened next is known to all. Now, Saied declared his war on the Ennahda movement and its leader Ghannouchi.

This strange Tunisian experience is repeated in many countries of the Islamic world, where many Jacobin, authoritarian, biased, and illegal secular figures emerged and took power in our Islamic world. Religious or not charismatic. Regrets, later on, helped no one.

Questions about why politicians are drawn into such fallacies and mistakes are very important, especially at this critical stage in history. Such mistakes by experienced and discreet politicians are thought-provoking in and of themselves.

To keep stepping on the same rake is unfortunately very painful.


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