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‘Tunisia’s democratic experience is not in a safe situation,’ warns President

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi gives a press conference in Tunis, Tunisia on November 8, 2018 [Fethi Belaid/AFP/Getty Images]
Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi gives a press conference in Tunis, Tunisia on 8 November, 2018 [Fethi Belaid/AFP/Getty Images]

Tunisia’s President Beji Caid Essebsi warned on Monday that the country’s democratic experience is not in a safe situation, Anadolu has reported. He also warned of the risks of a general strike called by his country’s largest labour union for Thursday.

Essebsi made his comments during a speech at the opening of an exhibition celebrating the revolution of 14 January 2011. The exhibition is being held at Bardo National Museum in the capital Tunis.

“We have adopted a democratic path and completed elections and a constitution,” explained the veteran Tunisian leader. “Despite the deficiencies in the constitution, it still distinguishes the Tunisian experience.” Of all the so-called Arab Spring countries, he pointed out, Tunisia is the only one to undergo such a thorough process. “However, we do not think that the democratic experience in Tunisia is in a safe situation.”

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The President accepted that people are still preoccupied with the formation of the government. “Although this delays the democracy path, it also confirms that the democratic experience is not in a safe position.” This was a reference to the preparations for the formation of a party close to the Head of the Government, Youssef Chahed.

President Essebsi stressed the need to “protect democracy, which is one of our major gains… because the Tunisian people rose up and want the fruits of their revolution. However, unemployment and poverty are still with us, and all of Tunisia’s regions remain marginalised.” He pointed out that the “democratic experiment” in the country cannot be completed in just 8 years. “It needs time to achieve the desired results.”

Speaking about protecting the democratic process from threats, including the general strike, which was called by the Tunisian General Labour Union, the largest union in the country, Essebsi reminded the audience of similar events more than 40 years ago. “The general strike held by the Tunisian General Labour Union on 26 January 1978 led to deaths and the dissolution of national unity. The repercussions were with us for decades.”

Although he accepted that the general strike is legitimate, “In the eyes of some people overseas, a strike is tantamount to a serious provocation, and the country is not accustomed to that.” Essebsi insisted that every effort must be made to avoid the strike and its attendant risks for Tunisia’s democratic process.

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