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Political blockage at the top in Tunisia

In Tunisia, the crisis that has shaken the top of the state for six weeks seems inextricable. At daggers drawn since January, President Kaïs Saïed and Tunisian head of government Hichem Mechichi are firmly rooted in their positions, plunging the country into a political crisis with a more than uncertain outcome. This prompted the Islamist Ennahdha party, which has a majority in Parliament, to organize a demonstration in support of the government on Saturday, February 27. A political crisis that is added to the economic and social crisis that the country is going through, ten years after the fall of President Ben Ali’s regime.

On the one hand, President Saïed refuses that the government reshuffled on January 16 and covering 11 portfolios, does not take an oath, citing suspicions of corruption weighing on certain ministers. Even though the government was approved by Parliament at the end of January, Kaïs Saïed persists and signs in a vitriolic letter sent on February 15 to the head of government Hichem Mechichi and made public. Placing himself as the guarantor of the Constitution, he claims not to have been informed of the reshuffle and considers that “The Constitution has not been respected”, because no Council of Ministers was organized before the announcement of the reshuffle.

A constitutional court that has still not seen the light of day

On the other hand, Hichem Mechichi is desperately trying to find a solution, but all the judicial institutions consulted indicate that only the Constitutional Court can settle the dispute over the taking of the oath. Except that the Constitutional Court has still not seen the light of day, the parties having never reached an agreement on the designation of its members. For Selim Kharrat, president of the NGO Al-Bawsala, observatory of political life in Tunisia, “It is not the hybrid nature of this regime which is the source of the political blockage but the women and men politicians who have led it astray”, with bad practices.

The analyst thus accuses President Saïed of exceeding “Its prerogatives by wanting to have control over the constitution of the government” and the head of government to enter into open conflict with the president. He also accuses the Speaker of Parliament (Rached Ghannouchi, Ennahdha) of having “Taken for the Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the start of his term of office”. “This reshuffle is a legal confirmation of a parliamentary majority which did not say its name”, and which is made up of Ennahdha, Qalb Tounes, (center right, whose founder, Nabil Karoui, presidential finalist in 2019, is prosecuted in a case of corruption, editor’s note) and Al Karama (Islamist).

Demonstration in support of the government

The head of government Mechichi, chosen by the president himself in July 2020, “Did not respect its commitments to form a government of technocrats”, continues Selim Kharrat, “Acceding to requests to remove all the ministers associated with the president, including the Minister of the Interior”. Taoufik Charfeddine was sacked at the beginning of January, and since then it is Hechim Mechichi himself who has been acting as head of the Interior. While the blockade persists, the show of force wanted by the head of parliament, Rached Ghannouchi, who called on supporters of his Ennahdha party to demonstrate on Saturday in support of the government, risks increasing political tensions.


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