Wednesday 9/29/21

Tunisia’s democratic journey goes on

26 July 2021, Tunisia, Tunis: Supporters of Tunisian President Kais Saied chant slogans during a protest in front of the Parliament building, denouncing Rached Ghannouchi, Parliament Speaker and President of the Islamist Ennahda Movement, after President Saied sacked the prime minister and suspended the parliament the night before. Photo: Khaled Nasraoui/dpa
Supporters of Tunisian President Kais Saied chant slogans during a protest in front of the Parliament building, after he sacked the prime minister and suspended the parliament the night before. Photo: Khaled Nasraoui/dpa.

Since the 25th of July 2021, the eyes of many people are on Tunisia. That day, the President of the Republic, Kais Saied, invoked the emergency article of Tunisia’s constitution, dismissed the Prime Minister, frozen the activity of the Parliament and lifted immunity from of its members.

A few hours before these decisions, many Tunisians took to the street under an excruciating 40°C midday sun and in violation of the Covid-19 restrictions to express their anger, dismay and dissatisfaction calling for the dissolution of the Parliament.

The debate over whether the measures taken by President Said were or not constitutional has captured the attention of national experts and international observers in the absence of a constitutional court able to decide on the matter. This debate has unfortunately obscured the perception that what happened in Tunisia was an indication of how Tunisian democracy has not been working.

The story of how Tunisian revolution began is well known. What happened next in the country is less known.

In fact, despite the successful transition, the adoption of a democratic constitution, the organization of national and local elections and the consolidation of freedoms and human rights, most of Tunisians, especially youth, feel that the situation in the country and the quality of their life were deteriorating and do believe that democracy didn’t deliver.

A very difficult economic and social situation that worsened under the pandemic crisis, the failure of ten successive governments since 2011 to adopt the necessary reforms, the numerous scandals surrounding the involvement of certain parliamentarians in corruption and criminal cases, the political pressures exerted on the judicial apparatuses of the State, the impunity and many other issues ended up by pushing Tunisians to lose faith in the majority of the political class when the latest wave of Covid-19 infections rose sharply causing more than 20 thousands deaths in the country.

Tunisians have called the President of the Republic to act demanding the dissolution of the Parliament, the dismissal of the government and to prosecute the responsible for the multifaceted crisis in which the country is floundering.

While adopting the exceptional and provisional measures, the President of the Republic, Kais Saied, has asserted that freedoms, human rights and democracy in Tunisia are irreversible and reiterated his personal attachment to guarantee that.

25 July 2021, Tunisia, Tunis: Tunisian security forces face-off with protesters during a protest against the Ennahdha party and the government on Republic Day demanding the government resign and the parliament to be dissolved. Tunisian President Kais Saied has said he has frozen parliament and relieved Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi of his position amid a deepening economic and political crisis in the country. Photo: Jdidi Wassim/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire/dpaTunisian security forces face-off on 25th July with protesters demanding the government resign and the parliament to be dissolved. Photo: Jdidi Wassim/dpa.

Fix what didn't work

Since the 25th of July, in Tunisia, no freedoms were suspended, no one has been arrested  (the only arrests were in the application of old sentences). The decisions have, also, been backed by the majority of Political parties in the country and the civil society organizations recognizing that for 10 years, Tunisians deserve better conditions of life.

Scenes of Tunisians chanting in the streets in many parts of the country defying the risks of Covid-19 in order to back the President and opinion polls showing a real popular support for his decisions confirm a real will of change.

Tunisians are looking for better ways to fix what didn’t work since 2011 while consolidating the hard-won freedoms, human rights and the democratic gains of the Revolution.

So Tunisia’s democratic journey goes on, and during this journey, Tunisians still need the support of  their friends and partners all over the world.

At every milestone in its history, Tunisia has been able to address messages of universal significance while inspiring a sense of progress.

All of us, Tunisians, along with our partners and friends, are invited today to read and interpret the direction of the course of the recent events wisely, while relying on the lessons retained from the history and the past.

A the end,  I would like to share with you the famous line of the national prodigy poet Abou El Kacem El Chebbi and part of the Tunisian national anthem: “If one day the People desires to live, then fate can only answer their call ”.

*Sarra Chaouani Abidi is the Tunisian Ambassador to Finland and Estonia.

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