Creating new perspectives since 2009

The final leaves of the Arab Spring have fallen

August 3, 2021 at 1:21 pm

Tunisian expatriates shout slogans while holding Tunisian flags as they demonstrate on January 15, 2011 in Paris, France. [Franck Prevel/Getty Images]

There is no doubt that the coup led by President Kais Saied in Tunisia has caused a major tremor in Arab societies yearning for freedom and democracy. They could smell the aroma of freedom from the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia, the cradle of the Arab Spring. Tunisia gave them hope after the counter-revolutions in Syria, Egypt, Yemen and Libya ended regional optimism.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia led the counter-revolutions from Abu Dhabi with the help of Israel’s Mossad. They refused to allow Tunisia to be a democratic model for the Arab world. They feared that the desire of freedom and democracy would spread to their own people and topple their thrones, so they opposed the Arab Spring revolutions with their money, causing unrest, turmoil and civil wars where the people had risen against their tyrannical rulers. With Western complicity, the people were pushed back under oppression, humiliation and fear. The UAE and Saudi Arabia made an example of them for the rest of the Arab world; anyone who felt the urge to rise up against tyranny knew that the choice was either dictatorship or destruction.

It looked as if Tunisia had escaped such a fate, but the counter-revolutionaries in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh did not like seeing democracy in an Arab country, so they planted the seeds of sedition amongst Tunisians. They bought off politicians and media personalities from the ousted regime to push the people of Tunisia to curse the democracy brought by the revolution. Conditions in the country had to be made unstable until it returned to dictatorship.

The UAE tried several times to stage a coup in Tunisia so that stooges of the late Zine El Abidine Ben Ali regime could take over, but it failed; until now. President Kais Saied came out of nowhere, from a world beyond politics. He had no political credibility as a professor of constitutional law; maybe this is what prompted the Tunisian people to choose him, especially the youth. They are tired of deceitful politicians who exploit the people’s pain and suffering.

Saied’s election win astonished observers — 73 per cent of the votes cast — and the UAE’s candidate, on whom it spent billions of dollars, lost. However, UAE de facto ruler Mohammed Bin Zayed did not accept this defeat, and returned to his conspiracy. This time, though, he did it through the elected president, Kais Saied himself. The professor of constitutional law duly turned against the constitution, despite saying eight years ago, “My fear for the upcoming constitution in Tunisia is that a donkey… will eat it.”

READ: Is Ennahda responsible for the Tunisia crisis

He overturned the constitution in one fell swoop, and seized all executive, legislative and judicial powers; dismissed the government; froze parliamentary work; lifted members’ parliamentary immunity; and appointed himself as head of the public prosecution service. In short, the democratically-elected president turned against the democratic path that brought him to power, and returned Tunisia to tyranny. He backed his move with martial laws as the army and police prevented citizens from protesting in front of parliament.

No matter how Saied tries to justify his crime against democracy — by claiming a constitutional right under Article 80, for example — this is a coup. His crooked interpretation is not appropriate for a professor of constitutional law. Article 80 of the Tunisian Constitution states:  “In the event of imminent danger threatening the nation’s institutions or the security or independence of the country, and hampering the normal functioning of the state, the President of the Republic may take any measures necessitated by the exceptional circumstances, after consultation with the Head of Government and the Speaker of the Assembly of the Representatives of the People and informing the President of the Constitutional Court.”

Saied did not consult any of the heads of government and parliament before making his decision. They were surprised by his shocking measures. Furthermore, the country did not face an imminent threat to its security or independence, other than from those leading the counter-revolutions from Abu Dhabi.

Article 80 also stipulates that the parliament “shall be… in a state of continuous session throughout such a period. In this situation, the President of the Republic cannot dissolve the Assembly of the Representatives of the People and a motion of censure against the government cannot be presented.”

The professor of constitutional law also failed to fulfil this condition. He froze parliament and closed its doors to MPs when they should have remained in session. He is a fraud.

Sadly, MPs are divided and so did not “present a motion to bring to an end the President of the Republic’s term for a grave violation of the Constitution”. They have a right to do this under Article 88 of the constitution. Not feeling insulted by this harsh blow to democracy, some liberals, leftists and nationalists, all of whom claim to support freedom, praise democracy and denounce dictatorship, applauded Saied’s move. They sided with tyranny and supported the coup, out of hatred for Ennahda Movement and its leader, the Speaker of Parliament, Rached Ghannouchi.

Is Tunisia slipping into a dangerous pitfall?- Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Is Tunisia slipping into a dangerous pitfall?- Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Among their false claims is that Ennahda controls Tunisia. This is like a broken record that we are sick of hearing. The truth is that Ennahda did not rule at all; it won only a quarter of the seats in parliament and reached an understanding with several other parties to give a parliamentary majority and a vote of confidence to a government headed by Hichem Mechichi, who was nominated by the president himself, not by Ennahda. Mechichi rejected Saied’s interference in his choice of ministers, and this dispute intensified because the president wanted to monopolise power. Saied sacked Prime Minister Mechichi, who was apparently assaulted at the presidential palace before agreeing to resign, reported Middle East Eye.

Given the hesitant global reactions towards Saied’s coup, it is obvious that the West does not want democracy in Arab countries. Democracy must remain a western preserve as Washington, London, Berlin et al continue to back dictators in the Middle East. The claim about spreading democracy and human rights in the world is a lie used to beautify the West’s ugly colonial face.

There is no doubt that the situation in Tunisia does not encourage optimism; there are probably other dangerous moves ahead. More politicians, journalists and activists can expect to be arrested. Independent MP Yassine Ayari has already been arrested and taken to an unknown destination. Ayari called Saied’s measures a coup planned and executed by France and the UAE. The president, he said, was just a tool. Maher Zaid MP has also been arrested for the same reason, followed by four MPs from the Karama Party, while the Attorney General has been placed under house arrest.

It’s going to get worse. The director of the state television channel has been dismissed, placing the media under the dictator’s control. Moreover, Al Jazeera’s offices have been closed, journalists have been arrested and their cameras and mobile phones have been confiscated or broken to prevent the truth from being broadcast to the world.

Experience suggests that political parties will be dissolved, starting with Ennahda. This is a basic demand of the counter-revolutionary forces, as Bin Zayed and his counterpart in Riyadh, Mohammed Bin Salman, both hate what they call political Islam, especially the Muslim Brotherhood. They want to destroy it everywhere.

Saied’s desire to monopolise control of all state institutions has seen him appointing himself as supreme commander of the armed forces and police. He did this in April, even though the constitution places the police under the command of the prime minister. He wants to change the constitution to introduce a presidential system of government. He still needs foreign support, though.

I do not see any light at the end of the dark tunnel into which Kais Saied has dragged Tunisia. He deceived everyone with his false slogans about Palestine and praying in Al-Aqsa Mosque. He has gone back to populist slogans about fighting corruption, playing on the feelings of the poor to portray himself as their supporter to gain their support for his treacherous coup.

As president, Saied did not make the Tunisian people happy; he has made the leaders of the counter-revolutions in Abu Dhabi happy. Their media outlets repeat the misleading claim about the downfall of the Brotherhood in Tunisia, not the downfall of democracy.

The final leaves of the Arab Spring born in Tunisia appear to have fallen. Will they be buried in Tunisia as the counter-revolutions want, or will they flower again? Time will tell.

READ: Ennahda official says movement ready for early elections 

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