The one thousand and one faces of coups - YASIN AKTAY

The one thousand and one faces of coups

The debate over whether what happened in Tunisia was a coup or not seems pointless when viewed from Turkey. After all, we are a generation that is familiar with the blows that can take different shapes, under so many guises, and the many faces it wears. There comes a time when the army appears on their tanks (1960, 1971, 1980) at the behest of the people, then the coup d'etat would have a postmodern face that balances democracy with the media, NGOs and some “deep state” operations. 

Sometimes an e-memorandum placed on the internet and a coup rears its ugly head, at other times it manifests itself when a part of the public uses its "democratic demonstration rights" to demand that another segment of the public be discriminated against, as was the case in the Republic rallies.

At times, it manifests as anger that tries to set the whole country on fire in order to save a tree, and then at other times, it appears as a judicial case against the government, which is fueled by corruption allegations. Then there are moments when it takes on a democratic guise with an election manipulation through the alliances of some actors with civil democratic legitimacy, and lastly, it comes back full circle in its most archaic, most conventional guise, as was the case on July 15.

At the time of the Gezi events in Turkey, a similar movement was taking shape in Egypt with the same discursive means. 

This movement served as a warning to Morsi as many political parties, NGOs and other organizations took to calling him a dictator on the grounds that, as the first elected President in the country's history, he had dared to rule the country alone. 

As a generation familiar with the discourse of coups, it seemed obvious to us that that move was ultimately an invitation to the military to seize control over the situation.

In Tunisia, it is said that what President Kais Saied, who is known to be an expert in the field of constitutional law, did was a constitutional coup. 

It is a coup carried out by misinterpreting Article 80 of the Constitution, creating legitimacy from there. In fact, the said article of the Tunisian constitution does not give such an authority to the President. More precisely, in order to derive such an authority from this article, it is necessary to subject it to a very extreme interpretation and even then, it would not have been justified to take such a step. 

Article 80 gives the president the right to take the necessary extraordinary measures in consultation with the Speaker of the Parliament and the Prime Minister in case of urgent and dangerous developments that threaten the future and independence of the country. In doing so, he needs to be in constant communication and cooperation with these authorities. 

Moreover, he is required to notify the Constitutional Court of the extraordinary practices he will apply as a result of the negotiations, and in the meantime, the Assembly is required to be in permanent session in order to pave the way for the executive bodies. 

It is expected that the extraordinary measures to be taken should not exceed 30 days. Saied, without knowing these details, announced that he had dissolved the Assembly, lifted the immunity of the deputies and assumed the authority to file a Public Lawsuit. Upon the initial reactions, he had to admit that he had suspended the Assembly for only one month and that the power to initiate a Public Action belongs to the Judiciary. However, it has thus demonstrated how unfounded his legal basis was for the step he had taken.

One of the few important details that are of note here is the preparations he has been undertaking for months to create public support for the coup. This preparation is actually his intense effort to sow distrust of the democratic processes that actually made the people elect him. It was especially intended to create the perception that the democratic parliamentary process brought nothing but chaos, unmanageability and economic bankruptcy for the Tunisian people.

Kais Saied himself worked to create this perception. He also obstructed them from doing their job by constantly criticizing all political parties, the parliament and the government led by the prime minister he appointed, with populist attitudes like a fierce opponent. 

With the campaign of the French and UAE media, which supported and actually guided him, he tried to ensure that the idea that “democracy is not a solution out of the crisis”  would take root among the people. 

After obstructing the health minister's measures against Covid-19 by propagating myths among the public, he did not hesitate to criticize the minister of health and the government due to the increasing number of cases. 

Thus, this coup, which came in the midst of the discontent among the people, made it possible to find sizeable support among the people. However, as a result of all these strange behaviors, when this coup did take place those strange behaviors took on a whole different meaning in the eyes of the public and now he is being questioned because of what he has done.

Again, discourse that was adopted by Saied seemed to point that some political parties have received financial support from abroad.

Usually, when Turkey and Qatar are the targets of such allegations, they’re so easy to buy into. Yet, the Tunisian Free Constitution Party, which is the only party that supported this coup, had clearly received financial support from the UAE. Yet again, this same party is now expecting  $5 billion from the UAE.

It is very clear why the UAE is more than happy to provide this support. It was no secret that the UAE would give all kinds of backing in return for a coup against democracy in Tunisia. The main question is, while the Tunisian constitution prohibits external funding of any political party, and many political parties such as Ennahda and Heart of Tunisia were accused of this based on nothing but rumors, according to which article of which constitution and for what purpose will the UAE be funding Kais Saied? Will Saied feel the need to explain the reason behind this funding to his own people?


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