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Tunisia President's measures have weakened accountability, report says

Kais Saied, Tunisia's president in Brussels, Belgium, 4 June 2021 [Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu/Bloomberg/Getty Images]
Kais Saied, Tunisia's president in Brussels, Belgium, 4 June 2021 [Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu/Bloomberg/Getty Images]

Transparency International's annual report on the Global Corruption Perceptions Index, which measures the degree of corruption in the public and governmental sectors in 180 countries around the world by using a score index consisting of a hundred degrees, included a part specific to the Arab world. The report concluded that the total corruption index in the region remained constant at 34 out of a hundred for the fourth year respectively and that none of the countries in the region recorded any progress in the situation of corruption during the past decade, describing Tunisia as an unfortunate example.

Kinda Hattar, Regional Adviser for the Middle East at Transparency International, says that the stagnation of the index and the lack of change is a message in itself, considering that this reflects "a real problem, in that no matter how superficially countries adhere to laws and rules, nothing will happen as long as there is no real change in system and prevailing culture."

The index measures the efficiency of the state in addressing corruption in the public and governmental sectors and does not include the private sector, so a score of zero is very corrupt, and a score of 100 is very clear.

The specificity of this year's report lies in the fact that it followed the situation of corruption in the world during the previous ten years, as well as the link between corruption indicators and the files of democracy and human rights.

Hattar says that there has been no actual change in the fight against corruption, despite the passage of a decade since the Arab Spring, and that this includes even countries that made promises of change. She indicated that, because of this, no significant progress was achieved in the index, and that even if a country made progress in one aspect, there would be regression in another.

Hattar added that political corruption is the most widespread in the region, and that it is not only about imprisoning the corrupted persons, and that there is a fear that there will be scapegoats in the end, rather than changing the system that allows the presence of the corrupt.

The report stated that "systemic political corruption impedes progress in the region and exacerbates human rights violations" and that "the Arab Spring failed to achieve any of the ambitious promises of change, even in countries that succeeded in establishing new systems, democracy continues to decline as well."

READ: 'We work according to law and Constitution' says Tunisian President

The report considers that the common problems that have affected the performance of Arab countries, in general, are mainly represented in mediation, bribery and discrimination in its various forms, and that these problems establish injustice in the public sector, whether in job opportunities or services and that one out of every five citizens in Arab countries finds himself forced to pay bribes to receive basic services such as health and education.

The report remarkably touched on two countries; the first is Lebanon, which she said is now experiencing the consequences of successive crises during the past two years, since the Beirut Port blast, the absence of a government for more than a year, the deteriorating economic conditions, the significant decline in the exchange rate of the lira against the dollar and successive protests calling for changing the political elites who are responsible for all these crises.

Tunisia's president Kais Saied is bleeding the country - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Tunisia's president Kais Saied is bleeding the country – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Hattar believes that Lebanon is now the clearest example of the consequences of the overlapping of politics and money, she says: "we are now seeing the results of the system of political corruption and the overlapping of its factors. The Lebanese are not able to build the State because there are difficult foundations to bypass that impede accountability and reproduce the existing system."

The report considered that the political decline in Tunisia was a reason for its decline in the anti-corruption index, indicating that it had achieved 44 points, and that suspending the parliament and the dismissal of the government and other measures taken by President Kais Saied caused an increase in uncertainty and political instability in the country.

The report described Tunisia as an "unfortunate example" and explained that it could lose its democratic gains, stressing that "recent political measures have weakened the control and accountability systems," and that they have caused an increase in public fear of reporting corruption.

According to the report, "the decline in personal and civil liberties, in general, is added to the corruption crisis in the region. For example, in Egypt (which scored 33 points), the detention of journalists, political opponents and activists continues, as well as the prevention of any gatherings and the blocking of freedom of expression platforms. In Morocco, as well (which scored 39 points), the health emergency law was issued that prohibits assembly and expression of opinion on the pretext of confronting the Covid-19 pandemic, which opponents consider a legal cover to target political opponents and prevent people from criticising the state administration in the face of the health crisis".

According to Hattar: "We must invest in civil society, as it is the spark that pushes the idea of ​​accountability." She added: "There are activists, civil society institutions and people who want change, even if they have the weakest voice or are the silent majority. This we should build upon. There must be efforts to keep this voice alive."

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