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Ghannouchi: Tunisians missed opportunity to overthrow the coup ‘the Turkish way’

August 1, 2022 at 12:10 pm

Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the Ennahda Movement in Tunis, Tunisia on April 29, 2022. [Yassine Gaidi – Anadolu Agency]

The head of Tunisia’s Ennahda Movement has said that the Tunisian people missed the opportunity to overthrow the “coup” the “Turkish way”, Al-Quds Al-Arabi has reported. Rached Ghannouchi confirmed that he prefers a secular, democratic constitution that respects freedoms and human rights, rather than one of a supposedly “Islamic” nature which supports dictatorship and strips people of their rights.

“We spent the night of 25-26 July last year in front of the Tunisian parliament with just a few hundred others because people were in shock [at the emergency measures taken by Kais Saied], not least because 150 Ennahda buildings were burnt at the same time,” he explained. “The members of the movement were preoccupied when I called them to join us in front of the parliament, but the conditions were not conducive at the time.”

The veteran pointed out that he issued orders for those who had joined the leadership at the parliament building to leave. “I told them that they had missed the opportunity to topple the coup in its infancy, similar to what the Turks did with their coup. However, we entered a phase of dispute and conflict with the coup, hoping to defeat it on points instead of a knockout.”

The movement, said Ghannouchi, has entered the second year of Saied’s coup with the feeling that it has achieved some of its goals. “This time last year we were almost alone, besides the Tunisian Workers’ Communist Party, which stood with us and dared from the first moment to say that Saied had carried out a coup with no legitimacy which the party would resist. Today, we are not so isolated. Indeed, it is Kais Saied who is isolated, because three-quarters of the Tunisian people boycotted his referendum last week.”

In fact, he pointed out that all of the influential parties of note in Tunisia have taken a position against the referendum and the new constitution. “They believe the whole process to be false. Moreover, while a few of those who supported the 25 July coup, such as some nationalists, remained, even the far left groups have abandoned it.”

READ: Tunisia’s Ennahda: ‘Vote boycott for Constitution referendum evidence it is rejected, null’

The veteran politician noted that Saied’s popularity has fallen from 90 per cent to less than a quarter in just one year. “This is because he did nothing during this year except demolish state institutions. He dissolved the parliament and the Supreme Judicial Council; the National Anti-Corruption Authority; and the Independent High Authority for Elections, as well as others. Saied is a destructive force.”

The new constitution, said Ghannouchi, grants “pharaonic” powers to President Kais Saied. He wants to tyrannise us in the name of Islam, which is the worst type of tyranny. This makes him a sultan among the sultans of our age in more than one Arab country… One article of the constitution stipulates that the president has the right to do everything, but he must not be accountable for what he does.”

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]

Ennahda’s leader said that he likes the presence of Islamic terms in the constitution, but if he has to choose between a constitution that contains human rights and freedom guarantees and does not contain the word Islam, and another one that is full of the Islamic terms that we like but gives absolute authority to the ruler — as Saied’s constitution does — then I prefer the first option, even if it is secular.”

He cited the fact that when he was persecuted in Tunisia he migrated to supposedly Islamic countries, but he was expelled from them because the “Islam” there was superficial.

“So I went to Britain, where there is a queen who does not declare Islam but declares human rights. I lived there for 22 years during which time not a single police officer asked me why I said what I said, and why I travelled to this country or that one, even though I travelled the world. That is why I said that a secular society of this nature where human rights are respected is better.”

READ: Tunisia court: Those who boycotted the referendum have no right to challenge its results