Ennahda’s Ghannouchi Calls For National Dialogue Amid Political Turmoil

In the midst of political malaise and what analysts describe as a “putsch” against the Tunisian revolution, Rached Ghannouchi, the head of the moderate Islamist Ennahda, withdrew calls for protests and demanded a national dialogue.

Flanked by military and security officials, President Kais Saied froze the activities of the Parliament and ousted Prime Minister Hicham Al-Mashishi on Monday, a move described by his critics as unconstitutional.

The move came after a day of protests against the government and Ennahda party amid soaring COVID-19 cases.

“I am against gathering all powers in the hands of one person,” Parliament Speaker Rached Ghannouchi, the head of Ennahda said.

President Kais claimed that he acted in accordance with article 80 in the constitution which stipulates that “the President of the Republic, in a state of the imminent danger threatening the integrity of the country and the country’s security and independence, is entitled to take the measures necessitated by this exceptional situation, after consulting the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the Cabinet”.

Nonetheless, the only body that has the legal right to condemn or to support Saied’s decision is the constitutional court, which still doesn’t exist.

A coup against the revolution?

Whilst a number of protestors have filled the streets to support President Kais, others have denounced his move. Instead of ending the prolonged political paralysis, the President has deepened it.

Now with the economy in shambles, the future of Tunisia, the success story of the Arab Spring, is uncertain.

The President’s grip on power signals that the country might be heading back to the pre-revolution era.

Whilst the 2014 constitution supposedly promotes a semi-presidential system, whereby the President, the Prime Minister, and Rached Ghannouchi, share power, they were all at loggerheads regarding their respective powers.

The prolonged power struggle has produced an incoherent approach towards Covid-19, which exacerbated the political and social malaise.

“Saied’s dismissal of the minister of defense fed further rumors that he was attempting to secure the military’s loyalty for what may come in the days and weeks ahead,” writes Sharan Grewal, nonresident fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings.

Likewise, the police, on their part, have shown their loyalty to Saied, storming the office of Al-Jazeera in a clear violation of press freedom.

Though a number of analysts have condemned the President’s actions, civil society groups like the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGGT) praised him.

Preventing violence requires a neutral stance from the civil society actors, as well as the international community, to mediate between the two sides. Without negotiations, it’s fair enough to say that Tunisia will be heading back to authoritarianism.

Grewal argues that the “wait and see” approach of the international community, paves the way for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to intervene in the scene, supporting Saied and aborting the revolution.

The crisis is expected to escalate if Kais refuses to negotiate with Ennahda. The future of Tunisia’s democracy is at stake, with each group grabbing supporters to “vote their feet”.

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