Sharing the same fate as Malaysia, Tunisia is also heading towards a blurry future due to its ongoing political turmoil. The recent event happening in Tunisia was seen as both a bless and a burden to the people in the country. Last two weeks, Tunisia’s Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, along with Defence Minister and acting Justice Minister had been fired and dismissed by Tunisia’s President Kais Saied. Immediately after, President Saied had also suspended the parliament for 30 days saying that his action was constitutional and defended himself by stating, “The constitution does not allow for the dissolution of parliament, but it does allow for its work to be suspended”. Although many celebrated the impeachment of the Prime Minister Mechichi, the suspension of Parliament was presumed intolerable by many, including the Parliament Speaker, Rashid Ghannouchi. Rashid Ghannouchi condemned the President’s action, saying that it was a coup, hence a protest in front of the parliament building happened last week mainly joined by the Islamist and Ennahda supporters.
According to reports, the political dispute between President Saied and Prime Minister Mechichi was not something new. The former Prime Minister Mechichi had reshuffled the cabinet according to his favour and had already planned to remove President Saied through Constitutional Court using his majority. The former Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi was an independent technocrat and a non-partisan appointed in 2019 by President Saied himself, and later supported by Rashid Ghannouchi to lead the coalition government that consisted of Ennahda (holding the biggest power in Parliament), Qalb Tounes, Karama and few other independent representatives. However, due to political discrepancies, the coalition government were unable or fail to work together in harmony.
Those who keeping up close with Rashid Ghannouchi who is the leader of Ennahda and the parliament speaker (also head of Muslim Brotherhood), will understand how critical it is the dismissal of the Prime Minister Mechichi and the suspension of the Parliament to Ennahda and to the Islamist alliance. Ennahda is already facing challenges to maintain the power in the coalition government. The pro-revolution supporters had slowly begun to lose their trust towards Ennahda as the government was not able to improve the economy nor the pandemic situation in the country.
On the other hand, anti-government protest was held by anti-Islamist supporters, demanding the government, particularly Ennahda to step down. The rage protestor had stomped into Ennahda offices and was reported to set fire in some of the offices. The protest was the outcome of the government failure to mitigate the pandemic crisis and the economy of the country even after few years in power. The surge of unemployment rate as high as 17.4 percent and covid death of over 20,000 lives, combined with political turmoil had give the people no choice but to demand for changes through protest amidst the rising covid cases.
The political crisis had divided the people of Tunisia, those who support President Saied’s actions believing it was a salvage, and those who opposed his action and considered it as a coup. According to analyst, President Saied intention was very apparent, to consolidate the power as the President of the country by eliminating his opponent and presume the executive power which will severely impact Ennahda, the biggest power in the parliament. Overall, the volatile political situation in Tunisia remains concerning as it poses the weaknesses of Tunisia’s young democratic system.
In order to truly fathom Tunisia’s political crisis, many aspects have to be looked at because the whole political issue in Tunisia is actually beyond that. Recalling back to the history, the Arab Spring that shook the stability of the Middle East ten years ago had begun in Tunisia, this event reflects the pattern of authoritarianism in the past. Although the revolution had brought Tunisia to democracy, it did not bring along with stability. Over the past ten years, Tunisia had to cope with ten government changes, therefore hindered the overall development of the country. Alas, the Tunisian people are the one who suffered had to endure the impacts of the political crisis, particularly the power struggle.
Aisyah Hadi is a Political Science degree holder from International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). Currently pursuing her study in Master of Strategic and Defense Studies in Universiti Malaya (UM).
The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect Ajar Demokrasi editorial stance