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Tunisia: Saied has lost all legitimacy, claims Ghannouchi

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

The Speaker of the Tunisian Parliament and leader of Ennahda, Rached Ghannouchi, has said that President Kais Saied has lost all of the basis of his legitimacy. "Saied has nothing to depend on in his rule," Ghannouchi told Kuwait's Al-Mujtamaa. "With his coup against democracy, he has lost whatever legitimacy he had."

The veteran politician believes that the July referendum represented the final proof that Saied is isolated from the Tunisian people and that his popularity has declined. In part this is due to the state bureaucracy and its coercive tools introduced after he won a free, democratic election and, despite swearing on the Qur'an to protect it, turning against the Constitution.

The Tunisian president violated the democratic process on 25 July last year and imposed his "exceptional measures". These included dismissing Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and his government and freezing the work of parliament. His political opponents viewed this as a coup against the Constitution.

According to Ghannouchi, Saied's coup was part of the repeated attempts of the old regime to restore authoritarian rule. Such efforts have been ongoing since the ouster of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.

Ennahda's leader acknowledged that Tunisia was suffering before Saied's measures were imposed. "However, it was suffering from a crisis that had a possible solution. Today, though, Tunisia is suffering from a disaster that cannot be solved, and through collapse and chaos it is being transformed into a failed state."

He accused Saied of failing to confront corruption as well as the economic crisis. Saied's handling of corruption, he argued, was no more than vague slogans, while his regime was involved directly in covering it up.

Saied also failed to improve the economic situation, said Ghannouchi, and its effects on society. The crisis has become a disaster the likes of which the Tunisian people have not known "since World War II": the value of the Tunisian dinar has deteriorated, and basic commodities have disappeared from markets or doubled in cost. "The situation now is likely to deteriorate further," he added.

Ennahda is a civil society party, Ghannouchi pointed out. It has no way to resist the coup and tyranny except through peaceful action within civil society in a way that preserves the country from chaos and preserves people's lives and honour. Regarding the movement's relations with other political groups, he explained that some political elites are still "committed to their hostility" towards Ennahda and its right to political participation. "These elites failed to benefit from the fruits of democracy, and so they do not see any good in democracy as long as there is a genuine movement that they failed to defeat democratically. They prefer to get rid of Ennahda rather than resist tyranny."

The Speaker suggested that it is necessary to understand the fears about democracy and address the flaws which marginalise patriotic figures. He stressed that Ennahda is ready to conclude agreements with them that would enable the country to reach a strong, productive and integrated democracy that preserves the democrats and recognises the efforts of those who struggle for freedom, justice and dignity for the Tunisian people. This, he concluded, can only be achieved by expanding dialogue, consensus, solidarity and harmony.

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