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Germany FM warns of Tunisia backtrack on democracy, following arrest of Ghannouchi

April 23, 2023 at 9:30 am

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. [ Esra Hacioğlu Karakaya – Anadolu Agency]

Germany’s Foreign Minister has warned against Tunisia’s backtrack on democracy, as president Kais Saied continues to suppress the country’s opposition and solidify his power following his coup two years ago.

Tunisia’s main opposition leader Rached Ghannouchi was arrested on Monday this week, following comments that to eradicate different viewpoints in Tunisian politics and society, such as the leftism or political Islam, may lead to a “civil war”.

The government accused the remarks of being inflammatory and encouraging violence, with the National Salvation Front (FSN) – the opposition alliance from which of which his En Nahda party is a member – confirming that he is being held on suspicion of “plotting against state security.”

READ: Soumaya Ghannoushi: The arrest of my father reveals the immorality of the coup

Speaking to reporters yesterday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock stated that Berlin views Ghannouchi’s arrest “with the greatest concern” and warned that the “democratic achievements in Tunisia since 2011 must not be lost.”

Following the revolution in Tunisia and the overthrow of its long-time dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali 12 years ago, the country was the only one amongst the Arab Spring uprisings to be successful in a democratic transition. That changed in 2021, however, when president Kais Saied dissolved parliament – in which Ghannouchi’s En Nahda party held the most seats – in a “coup” which allowed him to rule by decree.

Amid that power grab and the ongoing cementing of Saied’s authority, Baerbock noted that the Tunisia was “confronted with a difficult economic and social situation”, as the country is heavily in debt and faces high inflation and unemployment.

Baerbock assured that the European Union does not want to “leave the Tunisian people alone”, adding that it is “imperative” that the Tunisian government accelerates efforts to have a successful resolution in its talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

READ:Tunisia: EU support conditional on returning to democracy