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Will foreign counter-revolutionaries succeed in sabotaging Tunisia? 

June 3, 2020 at 12:10 pm

Tunisians for anniversary of the ousting of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunis, Tunisia on 14 January 2020 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]

Observers can’t miss the campaign against the Tunisian revolution by both domestic and foreign parties as they try to derail this beautiful country’s democratic transition. Tunisia is writing its own experience, slowly, but with a clear path ahead.

I am referring to the intensified attacks on the Speaker of the Parliament and the head of the Ennahda Movement, Rashid Ghannouchi, who faces ridiculous accusations related to public funds and illegal enrichment. And the articles in Egyptian, Saudi and UAE media accusing Ghannouchi and his movement of the last thing that any sane person could possibly accuse them of — extremism and authoritarianism — given that some of its supporters accuse Ennahda of being too open for relinquishing its fair share of power based on election results. I am also referring to the campaign planned and led by a single “maestro”, who controls it at home and abroad.

In addition to intensifying media pressure against Ennahda and its president, we can see that a fake protest movement has been created, led by unknown people who, according to Saudi newspapers, aim to rewrite the Constitution, dismiss the speaker of the parliament because he was not elected by the people, and draft a new election law. Is there a speaker of parliament directly elected by the people in any country?

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Moreover, there are fabricated media reports in the media controlled by the counter-revolutionary axis. The latest was a report by Al-Ghad — closely associated with the UAE — on “demonstrations” in seven Tunisian cities, which turned relatively innocuous protests about sport into serious political incidents.

Then there is such media’s promotion of allegations of a power struggle between the Speaker of the Tunisian Parliament and the State President, exploiting some speeches with mixed messages by President Qais Saeed to reinforce these allegations. However, even political novices know that there is no relationship between the President’s powers in the Tunisian Constitution and those of the Speaker, and if there is a possibility of a conflict over powers, it would occur between the President and the Prime Minister, not the Speaker, who has no executive role.

Tunisia’s President Kais Saied in Tunis, Tunisia on 13 October 2019 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]

Tunisia’s President President Qais Saeed in Tunis, Tunisia on 13 October 2019 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]

So why do these people want to sabotage Tunisia, and not for the first time? The counter-revolutionary countries began their quest to curb the democratic transition in 2013 by taking advantage of the atmosphere created by the military coup in Egypt. They managed to score some points, but they have not been entirely successful, hence the ongoing efforts at every possible opportunity.

As the cradle of the Arab Spring, and the inspiration for the Arab peoples in their quest for freedom from despotism, Tunisia is unacceptable in the eyes of the counter-revolutionary axis. It must be stopped at any cost.

Furthermore, Tunisia is part of a group of countries that have transitioned relatively successfully, including Morocco in particular and then Algeria to a lesser degree. I would also add Libya to the group, as recent events there suggest movement in the right direction. All of these countries see the counter-revolutionaries active within their own borders as they try to sabotage their political course. This is clearly the case in Tunisia and Morocco, while it is taking on a military character in Libya with the axis supporting the coup leader, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

Ghannouchi: Neutrality in Libya is senseless

Perhaps Haftar’s early successes in Libya encouraged the axis campaign to act openly in Tunisia and possibly Morocco, and led to the emergence of pent-up differences over the past few weeks. The axis desire to thwart democracy across North Africa is strong.

Why will such efforts fail? For a start, Tunisia has been resistant to sabotage since the beginning and will remain so, because its people have demonstrated their determination not to return to the past. It is true that they are not completely satisfied with the transitional path and are angry because of the delay in reaping the fruits of the revolution on the economic and social levels, but at the same time they understand the importance of the change that took place politically and in terms of civil freedoms. They do not want the return of the police state and corruption protected by repression and tyranny.

While some of the isolated elites in Tunisia agreed to lend themselves to the foreign sabotage due to their indulgence in their own ideological struggle with Ennahda, the majority are satisfied with the struggle within the rules of the democratic game. These elites may play political games in their most unpleasant forms, albeit within the broader framework of the Constitution, but will not accept being part of the attempt to sabotage the democratic path, because they will be among the first victims if it succeeds.

Ennahda may make a wrong decision here or there, but since the success of the revolution the party has put the interests of consensus and the preservation of the transitional path over political expediency and its right to take its share of power. That is usually the goal of any political party in the world.

READ: Protesters calling for jobs halt Tunisia’s phosphate output

On top of all of these reasons that make me sure that the attempts to sabotage Tunisia will fail, is the fact that a president who is elected in a constitutional and popular election will not allow his country to rely on unconstitutional projects for change. President Saeed may have his differences with the government and parliament, and he may make “populist electoral” speeches even though he is in power now, but at the end of the day he will not agree to be involved in the sabotage of the path that brought him to power. He represents an important institution in a country wherein the military and bureaucratic institutions have, since 14 January, 2011, been part of the revolution and the democratic transition. They will not allow it to be written in their record that they deviated from this path, in favour of sabotage which would have Tunisia and its people among the losers.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on 1 June 2020

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.