When Tunisian President Keith Said announced on Sunday that he had decided to invoke Article 80 of the country’s constitution, he was doing what he had publicly threatened to do. Said used this article to allow the president to take “necessary measures” when the country is “in a state of imminent danger”, remove Prime Minister Hichem Mecic, and suspend Parliament.
Before the announcement on Sunday, Said repeatedly insisted that Tunisia’s 2014 constitution was a flawed text and that the current distribution of power would only lead to a political deadlock, especially as the country’s deteriorating economic and public health challenges were caused by corruption of. The recklessness of the Baath Party, the largest party in the parliament.
Many Tunisians believe Said’s statement.
The fact that successive political alliances cannot revive the economy and effectively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the President’s warning, convinced many Tunisians that a radical solution is urgently needed. They took to the streets of the country to demand that the government step down, and even attacked the Baath Party offices.
Therefore, when Said announced his decision to invoke Article 80 and suspend Parliament, although it is not clear whether the move will bring about meaningful changes, hundreds of people flocked to the Parliament building to celebrate, and more people cheered on social media. .
Some expressed concern about the possibility of foreign interference in the democratic process, while others peddled various conspiracy theories, but overall, this was a real moment of cheer for the country-most Tunisians seemed to support the president’s dismissal of his unpopular prime minister. decision.
However, it is crucial to call Said’s actions the actual situation: the coup.
In fact, the President’s decision to suspend parliament and dissolve the government with the support of the military and security forces, while restricting freedom of the press and threatening to use violence, can only be defined as a coup.
This is not an attempt to get lost in the definition of technology, nor is it an attempt to regulate the language used to define what is currently happening in the country. This is just a statement of fact.
Rached Ghannouchi, the speaker of the Tunisian parliament and leader of the Baath Party, has called the president’s dismissal of the prime minister and suspension of parliament a coup. However, it was not only the aggrieved leaders and members of the Baath Party that branded it and expressed their concerns about the future of democracy in Tunisia.
Of the 12 major political parties in Tunisia today, 6 have clearly expressed their opposition to President Said’s move and condemned it as illegal. This includes not only Ennahda and its allies Qalb Tounes and Karama, but also social democratic party Attayar, centrist liberal party Al Joumhouri, and even Marxist-Leninist party Hizb al-Ummal. At the same time, the other two parties, the Labor and Liberal Democracy Forum Eta Catol, chose a wait-and-see approach and provided limited support to the president, while expressing their interest in the country’s shift to authoritarianism after this move. Worry.
In fact, Said’s actions since Sunday have further aggravated these concerns about a possible slip to authoritarianism.
In the face of increasing criticism, he chose to control the media’s narrative of his actions and crack down on media freedom. On Monday, at least 20 plainclothes police officers stormed Al Jazeera’s office in Tunisia and shut it down. This did not convince Said’s critics that he was just leading the constitution and democratic transition of power, but added weight to the claim that the country is actually going through a coup. In fact, democratic transformation usually does not involve an impact on the media office.
However, so far, Said has succeeded in thwarting any strong criticism from the international community, especially Western allies, by mistakenly reiterating that his actions are based on Article 80 of the Constitution and are therefore completely legal and legal.
Article 80 does allow the President to take extraordinary measures when he “threats the imminent danger of the country”. However, it is not yet clear what the “imminent danger” is. Over the years, Tunisia’s economic dilemma has become a reality, and its catastrophic health crisis will only get worse due to the president’s political gambling.
Said rejected the parliament’s decision to maintain continuous meetings and granted himself the privilege of appointing the next prime minister. This is undoubtedly unconstitutional.
In addition, the role played by the Tunisian military throughout the process, especially its risky decision to block the parliament, made it more difficult to deny that this was a coup.
The military’s role as an anti-system force in politics has been expanding for many years, but by publicly supporting Said’s coup, it has almost publicly announced that it is now officially a politicized force, in terms of who acquires and retains the country’s power. Have a say in political power.
In addition, Said brazenly used the army to suppress critics, announcing that if someone shoots, “the army will respond with bullets.” This made the military more dangerously involved in domestic politics, and undoubtedly changed the balance of power in favor of Said and his supporters. For example, this resulted in the expelled Tunisian Prime Minister Mecic quickly accepting his dismissal and agreeing to transfer responsibility to anyone chosen by the president.
At the same time, Ghannouchi could only manage to hold a small protest outside the parliament after being refused entry by the soldiers. Regardless of what anyone thinks of Ganucci or his party, the dismissed Tunisian parliamentary chairman tried to reason with faceless soldiers in the dark as a tragic sign of the future.
Said’s character and political record are another factor that makes it clear to many people that what happened on Sunday was a coup. Since taking over as president, Said has repeatedly peddled conspiracy theories, implying that “deep state agents” are plotting against him, and even once declared that “the army is on alert against the conspirators.” His fanatical belief in conspiracy theories eventually led him to reject mainstream politics and develop a belief that the country is always threatened and he is the only one who protects it. In addition, Said believes that the best way forward for Tunisia after the revolution is to abolish political parties and establish direct democracy in local councils. Therefore, when he announces the 30-day adjournment of the parliament, it can be extended “until the situation stabilizes” if necessary. It is hard to believe that his intention is to ensure a democratic transition of power.
So far, thanks to popular support and military support, Said’s coup seems to be a success. But this does not mean that Tunisia is closer to establishing a truly democratic and efficient political system and government. The country’s political and non-political forces are intensifying new struggles to establish a new balance of power, all showing that recent developments will only exacerbate the political deadlock in Tunisia.
In short, after the Said coup, Tunisia’s democracy is still in crisis.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.