Tunisia Political Situation Update

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Political Situation - Updates of the Situation in Tunisia

Since 25 July 2021, Tunisia has been witnessing an acute political crisis that arose when President Kais Saied carried out a host of measures which included dissolving parliament and the Supreme Judicial Council, and issuing a number of legislations through extraordinary presidential decree, which the “opposition” parties deemed a “coup against the constitution”, while pro-government forces deemed it a redress of the process of the 2011 revolution that toppled president Zein El-Abideen bin Ali.

To add insult to injury, President Kais Saied issued on 1 May a presidential decree stipulating the dismissal of 57 judges and accusing them of corruption after the opposition had officially established the National Salvation Front which included 19 Tunisian political forces opposing President Kais Saied.

As for President Kais Saied, he justified his comportments by claiming that his measures were “within the constitution and aimed at protecting the Tunisian state against an imminent threat”. All these developments were but the aspects of the hidden causes lying at the heart of foreign meddling and the jostling of domestic forces to win the custodianship over international interests, especially the interests of America and France, the latter having succeeded in enticing Kais Saied after he acceded to power through American backing, the details of which were later divulged.

However, with Emmanuel Macron defeating Marine Le Pen in the French elections on 25 April 2022, France’s choice to lift the lid on President Kais Saied became clearer, and Macron began to harbour the intention to get rid of him as he plunged the country into a political and economic crisis that threatens a popular outburst which would not only undermine France’s interests in Tunisia and neighbouring countries, but also Western colonialist influence and its projects in Tunisia and the rest of the Maghreban countries. And as Tunisian political forces have become divided, and the masses have been harnessed in the rivalry, France and America’s priority revolves around isolating the masses from the struggle and contain its consequences, threats and dimensions by gathering the political forces within the incubator of the Salvation Front and embarking on managing the crisis in isolation of the popular and partisan forces in order to ensure that Tunisia remains under Western custodianship.

Perhaps the first indications of France’s decision to lift the lid on Kais Saied was the U-turn of former presidential chief of staff Nadia Akasha, who was the liaison officer between President Kais Saied and the French embassy; she issued a statement on the day Macron won the elections and said that “25 July was a critical moment, a historic decision and a national process aimed at building the rule of law under which freedoms and institutions are respected”, adding, “alas, that moment and that process were hijacked by those who had no piety and no honour, and by a clique of losers who know nothing apart from practising vulgarity, distortion and deception.” She added: “Where does Tunisia stand today as she faces a stifling political crisis that poses an imminent and persistent threat the country has never experienced in its modern history.” There were also some audio recordings leaked by Nadia Akasha in which she revealed the serious health conditions of Kais Saied and claimed that he was but a puppet controlled by his wife Ichraf Chebil and her sister Atika. And in order to demonise Kais Saied and destroy his popularity, Nadia Akasha revealed on how the family of Kais Saied control the decision-making in a manner alluding to the return of the Taraboulsi clan, in reference to the wife of deposed president Zein al-Abideen, and evoking the repugnance of the masses towards the president and his entourage.

The omens of France’s policy pertinent to shunning Kais Saied have emerged since the meeting between French ambassador André Parant and the leader of al-Nahda Movement and Parliament Speaker Rashid al-Ghannouchi. A brief communiqué was posted on the latter’s Facebook page which stated that “the meeting tackled the latest developments on the national scene, and it was reemphasised that the relationship between Tunisia and France would be strengthened in a manner serving the interests of the two countries.” It has also been remarked that since the meeting between al-Ghannouchi and French Ambassador on 8 December 2021, the latter, who had requested the meeting, set about contacting a number of political forces opposing Kais Saied and inviting them to approach the al-Nahda Movement and support the initiative of Ahmed Najib Chebbi which was dubbed the “National Salvation Front”, the preparations for which began on 26 April. The moves of the French ambassador came amid the scathing attack America launched on Kais Saied for his moves to monopolise power and the extraordinary measures he carried out through which he has been running the country with an iron fist after he had dissolved all the elected institutions and turned on the “constitution and the democratic process.” The National Salvation Front was established following Chebbi’s consultations with several parties and associations on the grounds of believing in democracy, the necessity to return to “constitutional legitimacy” and to rescue Tunisia from its political and economic crisis. Ahmed Najib Chebbi confirmed through his statements that among the most important conditions of joining this alliance was rejecting the elimination or the eradication of any political or associative side. The National Salvation Front includes ten groups, the most prominent of which are five parties, namely al-Nahda, the Dignity Coalition (Al-karama), Heart of Tunisia, which is the party of Nabil al-Qarwi, Tunis al-Irada, which is the party of former president Moncef al-Marzouki and the Hope Party (al-Amal), which is the party of Ahmed Najib Chebbi himself, in addition to a few groups of the dynamism such as Citizens Against the Coup, Tunisians for Democracy and the National Salvation Front of Najib Chebbi.

It is clear that the meeting between al-Ghannouchi and the French ambassador aims to secure the political stability of the state and the guaranteeing of French interests; it is also a French message to Kais Saied to dissuade him from liquidating the political parties, especially amid the speculations that Kais Saied may issue a decree to dissolve the political parties and place their leaders under house arrest or throw them in jail, especially al-Nahda. The message to Kais Saied was corroborated through a series of meetings held later between the leader of al-Nahda, Rashid al-Ghannouchi, and several ambassadors including the Chargé d'Affaires at the U.S. Embassy, Natasha Franceschi, UK ambassador Helen Winterton and Italian ambassador Lorenzo Fanara. This indicates a Western consensus and interest in the political stability of Tunisia which was the spark for the “Arab revolutions” which have exhausted the reason for their existence and continuance. Consequently, France, who backed the coup of Kais Saied, and America, who did not object to it, are today worried about their interests due to the measures undertaken by Kais Saied which have precluded the political and constitutional life amid an international siege laid on all the financial channels of the Tunisian economy. In this context, and from the perspective of discarding the Islamists’ in power option, as well as fearing an assault on power by al-Nahda and the other parties, France, backed by America and Britain and other Western states with interests in Tunisia, exhorted Ahmed Najib Chebbi to generate the “moderate secularist” equilibrium with al-Nahda, tackle the political horizon’s stalemate and vent the resentment of the masses.

In this sense, the National Salvation Front, whose establishment was officially announced a few days ago and is led by Ahmed Najib Chebbi, represents a Western political alternative aimed at marginalising any leading role by al-Nahda within the ranks of the opposition. The National Salvation Front has put forward a national salvation programme which will institute for the upshots of the “National Dialogue Forum” whose founding has been assigned to Salahuddine al-Jourshi, who is known to be affiliated to the so-called “Islamist left”. And based on the programme of the National Salvation Front, an interim government of national salvation will be formed to assume managing the current phase and pave the way for general elections, i.e., legislative and presidential.

It seems that the West’s decision to withdraw its support for Kais Saied has generated an opportunity for Russia to build bridges with him to achieve what she concluded with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Syrian President Bashar Assad, especially as America does not object to Russian presence in the areas of her influence and the areas of French influence whenever her interests necessitate such a scenario, which she would harness to dismantle the Franco-Russian relationship through Russia’s collision and jostling with France in Africa, which represents the political nerve centre and economic artery of the French. In this context, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov wanted to visit Tunisia but then had a change of heart lest he should upset France while the Russo-American struggle in Ukraine is still ongoing. Meanwhile, on the day Lavrov cancelled his trip to Tunisia, the US embassy announced the two-day visit of Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, Yael Lempert, to Tunisia, “to reiterate U.S. support for the Tunisian people, underscore the importance of taking steps to strengthen democratic governance, and emphasize the need for inclusive political and economic reforms.” The US embassy’s statement was concurrent with the moves of the French ambassador and efforts of the National Salvation Front. All this came amidst reports that President Kais Saied intends to visit Russia and American criticism of his political performance. This explains his confusion and dilemma now that he has lost his foreign political cover and resorted to losing gambles, which include the rumours linking him to the fabricated sabotage and the “terrorism” scarecrow in the south.

We conclude from this that Western efforts are underway to regulate the political compass in Tunisia, marginalise Kais Saied whose undertakings have forestalled institutional activity, and replace him with the National Salvation Front to manage the stifling political and economic crisis as the reality dictates that getting out of the stalemate, venting the popular resentment and preserving Western interests would only be achieved from outside the presidential palace. This is how the collaborators attract the meddling of foreign powers in their country to control the regime and orchestrate it according to their interests and to the detriment of the local people who have been afflicted with those rulers and politicians.

Foreign powers would not have achieved their aims in our lands if the Ummah had political awareness and had she perceived who are the avaricious enemies plundering her resources, the plans they are executing in her lands and the forces whose existence hinges on the help of Western powers who harness them to execute their plans, so that she may expose and smother them. The presence of individuals with political awareness would not suffice to avert the Ummah’s calamities or to protect her against slipups, no matter how numerous they were, as long as they continue to act individually; awareness therefore should be generated collectively among the Ummah, though it would not necessarily have to be universally generated. This is the only way to immunise the Ummah and her lands against the plotting and the threat of the Western powers coveting their lands and resources.

5 Thul Qi’dah 1443h
5 June 2022