What Tunisian President Kais Saied has done is nothing but a step to salvage what can be salvaged from Tunisia. Clearly, the Tunisian president has strong support from security institutions, which have acted, at least so far, in a way that suggests that they are under the control of the president and his decision. The decisions were issued to target the Ennahda party, which is nothing but a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood [MB], an extremist organization thirsty for power.
Most importantly, Kais Saied was elected directly by the people. This makes him a legitimate president who acts according to his national duties, which go beyond the interests of a particular group that has no other concern but the acquisition of power.
In recent years, especially since Zine El Abidine Ben Ali left Tunisia, Ennahda has appeared as the only real organized force in the country. Its actions, which culminated in its leader, Rached Ghannouchi, attaining the position of Speaker of the Assembly of the Representatives of the People, revealed that it was biding its time to take control of Tunisia.
The Brotherhood has always underestimated the constant readiness of the Tunisian people for resistance, not to mention how hard it would be to force Tunisian women to give up the advantages they enjoy by virtue of modern and civilized laws that have nothing to do with the MB and their backwardness.
Additionally, the Ennahda party demonstrated shrewdness in its handling of the Tunisian situation since the success of the Jasmine Revolution and the forced departure of Ben Ali from the country. Little by little, it infiltrated the Tunisian administrations. It contributed to inflating the state apparatus and making citizens depend on receiving salaries without doing any productive work.
This was accompanied by an ongoing deterioration of the economic and social situation in light of administrative chaos that made major corporations, including mining companies, withdraw from Tunisia.
It was clear that the Ennahda party was taking the approach of spreading misery and backwardness in order to take control of Tunisia with time and thwart the steadfastness of the Tunisian people, especially women.
Certainly, Kais Saied is not Beji Caid Essebsi, who enjoys a historic legitimacy and knew how to deal with the Ennahda based on his Bourguiba-esque legacy.
Nevertheless, the events of recent days revealed another trait of this man, a trait that is based on intrepidity and the ability to face head-on confrontations.
Kais Saied is not an officer who pulled off a coup; rather, he is the legitimate president of the Republic of Tunisia, elected by a large popular majority, and, upon entering his presidential office, he found that his country was disintegrating before his very eyes.
President Saied had no other choice but to confront the situation head-on instead of retreating behind the curtains to see how Rached Ghannouchi watches the tug-of-war between the president and his prime minister, Hichem Mechichi, whose inability to assume his responsibilities, even to the smallest degree, was proved by the crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
It is no secret that the Jasmine Revolution, which ignited the spark of the Arab Spring, lost its luster a long time ago.
The Ennahda party considered Tunisia to be a fruit that will ripen with time and be ready for the harvest, alongside the other miserable countries in the Arab region.
Kais Saied is not just one man on his own in his resistance to Ennahda, which is currently talking about “the coup pulled off by the president.” The real coup was in Kais Saied’s refusal to take the initiative and watch his country collapse. All that there is to it is that he faithfully shouldered the responsibilities of a president, nothing more.
What is also of great importance is that the Tunisian people have proved that they refuse to bow and surrender to chaos, backwardness, and institutions akin to the ones established by the Ennahda, which have become black holes in Tunisia.
A given country would sometimes go slowly and other times very fast on its way toward the abyss. This was evident in the crisis resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, through which the Prime Minister wanted to content himself with making a scapegoat of the Minister of Health.
Many questions will arise during the following days, instigated by the Ennahda, which will try to pretend that it adheres to the law and the constitution. It is not known which law or constitution the movement is talking about in a country where crimes such as the murders of Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi are perpetrated.
What happened to the investigation into these two crimes? Has Tunisia become a lawless country that has no place for the law or the constitution, except when it comes to the president and his exercise of powers?
Those who assumed power after the Jasmine Revolution were supposed to get rid of the issues and backwardness of the past, which means recognizing the positives of the eras of Habib Bourguiba and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Bourguiba built solid institutions for a modern state and brought Tunisia into contact with everything that is civilized in this world.
The trio of officers: Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Habib Ammar, and Abdelhamid Echeikh, did well when they disposed of Bourguiba at the right time in 1987, when he reached old age and became a prisoner of the women of his palace. The most prominent of these women was Bourguiba’s niece, Saida Sassi. Then after the dust settled, Ben Ali knew how to get rid of his two comrades in the coup against the Great Warrior. He ruled single-handedly and his actions were guided by a narrow political vision.
However, what cannot be ignored -- despite the rampant corruption that accompanied the rise of his second wife Leila Traboulsi -- is that he ran the country efficiently, helped create a Tunisian middle class, built an economy based on transformative industries, agriculture, tourism, and other services that created job opportunities for Tunisians. He did all this while maintaining stability and security.
Tunisia is supposed to remember its past to secure its future. Does Kais Saied have enough qualifications to allow him to put an end to the bickering Tunisia has been suffering from for the past ten years?
Certainly, Tunisia is at a crossroads now, but what fills us with some optimism is that Kais Saeid left the role of a spectator as he believes that something must be done to rescue Tunisia from the clutches of the Muslim Brotherhood.
What can aid him in his quest is the loyalty of the army and security institutions, i.e. the deep state in Tunisia, on the one hand, and the presence of broad popular groups and supportive trade unions and professional bodies on the other.
Kais Saied is not called on to rescue the Jasmine Revolution on his own. The issue concerns all Tunisians, whose future is at stake here. Tunisia: to be or not to be, that is the question.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, Kuwaiti Newspaper news outlet Alrai.