After President Kaïs Saïed’s coup, the activist warns of the evils that are plaguing her country.
Sihem Bensedrine was a member since 1979 of the Tunisian Human Rights League. A courageous activist under Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s regime, Sihem Bensedrine headed, between 2014 and 2019, the Truth & Dignity Authority. This authority collects the testimonies, complaints, and other information from Tunisians suffering decades of dictatorship. Some praised her, while others criticized her, and she was forced to resign as head of the organization. She was also accused of financial mismanagement, and using the forum to her political ends. After the coup by Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed, who on July 25 took over most of his powers by dismissing the Prime Minister and freezing the work of Parliament, the activist once again warns of the evils that are plaguing her country.
President Saïed surprised on September 29 by appointing little-known scholar Najla Bouden Romdhane as Prime Minister. Although historic – Romdhane will be the first woman to lead a government in the Arab world – the announcement came as Tunisia is going through its most turbulent period since the 2011 revolution that sparked the “Arab Spring” uprisings. . Najla Bouden Romdhane takes office barely two months after Kaïs Saïed sacked his predecessor on July 25 and dissolved Parliament, raising fears of an authoritarian drift.
Most Tunisians then welcomed Saïed’s takeover with relief. The disillusionment with politics has been caused by the collapsed economy, the persistent corruption, and the growing pandemic. If Kaïs Saïed had seized this opportunity to put the institutions of the State on the rails and took head-on the major projects of pending reforms, he would have attracted the indulgence of Tunisians for his coup de strength. He didn’t, and the dissatisfaction continues to grow.
Kaïs Saïed gave himself full powers by upsetting the constitutional order. He issued a decree on September 22 that drastically reduced the power of the head government. This was a decision that had serious implications for the rule of laws. The Constitutional Court, the key to the constitutional edifice that could have pronounced upon the regularity these decisions, is still not established.
The second fault committed by Kaïs Saïed is to have relied on the army and, above all, the police to manage the post-July 25th. Numerous human rights violations have been committed by the police, which has not seen reform since the fall in 2011 of the dictatorship. By relying on it, instead of being seen as the “savior” of the people, Saïed finds himself a prisoner of the security heritage hated by the Tunisian people.
The supporters of Saïed identify the revolutionary gains with the Islamist Ennahdha party. They return the Second Republic’s genesis. [née après la chute de Ben Ali, NDLR]In the October 2011 elections, Ennahdha won a majority. This was despite the fact that there were many structures and initiatives created by the extraordinary revolutionary mobilization. The Constitution was the product of a wide-ranging national debate that sought to eliminate the threat of authoritarianism. The hostile political environment meant that most of the democratic architecture was not realized.
Although the elections of 2014 and 2019 were technically free, illicit election money flow was ignored by election monitoring agencies. This resulted in the election of several MPs who were accused of corruption, smuggling and even pedophilia. None of these deputies have been required to produce tax discharges or evidence of probity in relation to justice.
Many of the problems we have been facing since 2015 are linked to the choice of the “Tawafouqat” (unnatural agreements) policy, adopted by the Nidaa Tounes-Ennahdha coalition (a secular party and an Islamist party). If taken to its extreme, this policy is a form of illegal agreement that has distorted democratic play and led to abuse of domination which affects the effective management of state organs.
Contrary to what appears, the Ennahdha Party has not taken on the revolutionary agenda. Instead, they are obsessed with keeping power. He became obsessed with this desire and made a pact to work with the networks of the former system in the justice, media, and police sectors. To better adapt the RCD party’s methods of dominance, he incorporated the RCD party in his ranks and voted for a law of “reconciliation”, which would whitewash the corrupt.
An accomplice administration is facilitating the establishment of a patronage and parasitic economic system that closes off competition for young entrepreneurs. Most cases of corruption that are enlisted in court end up in the financial judicial centre, where the mafia and its allies have their bases. Suspects are guaranteed impunity.
In June 2014, the Truth & Dignity Authority was established to investigate corruption and human right violations. It transferred 61 cases of corruption to specialized chambers for transitional justice. These jurisdictions however are vulnerable to abuses by police unions, who refuse execution of judicial warrants with the support of the Ministry of the Interior.
It is therefore understandable why this part of the political class set about defeating the challenges of the transition and why it aroused popular anger which justified Saïed’s coup. It seems to be turning its back on transitional justice. This choice will come at a cost to Tunisia. But the solutions are already there, and they just need to be implemented. The IVD released a report that recommended reforms to combat corruption and impunity.