The new draft structure launched by Tunisia’s President Kais Saied, which will probably be voted on by the general public in a July 25 referendum, alerts the upcoming undoing of the nation’s post-revolution political transition. It represents a harmful turning level that exposes Saied’s goal to consolidate his one-man rule by turning Tunisia’s younger democracy formally – and thru seemingly authorized means – into an autocracy.
His proposed structure re-establishes a hyper-presidential system and banalises the judiciary and legislative branches by inserting them fully below the management of the president. It foresees the disappearance of Tunisia’s pluralistic system of political events and impartial our bodies and, most significantly, legitimises the removing of the checks and balances on the authority of the manager. In a nutshell, Saied’s structure goals to revive the authoritarian rule from which Tunisians have reeled for many years and began a revolution to dismantle.
Boycotting the constitutional referendum is the one remaining possibility for Tunisians involved with safeguarding their nation’s younger and fragile democracy.
Since his notorious July 25, 2021 energy seize, Saied – largely assisted by Tunisia’s highly effective safety equipment – has slowly and steadily destroyed the pillars of a vibrant, albeit chaotic, political ecosystem, and constrained the civil freedoms and rights that many Tunisians have fought arduous to achieve and reached troublesome compromises round.
After shutting off the parliament, his regime has established a reign of invisible fear that has since succeeded in silencing his political opponents and excluding them from the general public area. Not solely opposing voices are all however eradicated from the nationwide media, many former members of the parliament, attorneys and civil activists have been jailed.
Saied’s choice to write down a draft structure lower than a yr after his coup takes a well-used web page from the playbook of autocratic legalism – by appearing like he’s merely working in the direction of constructing a extra strong authorized framework to assist democracy, he’s making an attempt to deceive Tunisians into pondering his authoritarian program is definitely authorized and democratic, and should even ultimately outcome within the institution of a brand new, way more progressive republic.
Saied, a retired regulation lecturer, managed to seize energy before everything as a result of he knew methods to recreation the shaky political system in post-revolutionary Tunisia and reap the benefits of the inherent flaws of the present constitutional design.
After being elected president, he efficiently weaponised the general public’s declining belief within the fractured parliament and frustration with the nation’s deepening financial and social vulnerabilities to highjack shaky democratic establishments from inside and consolidate his energy below the guise of making an attempt to “fix” the democratic system.
As he repeatedly paid lip service to democratic rights and rules, and used not solely the blunt pressure of the navy but in addition article 80 of the 2014 structure to grab energy and dismiss the parliament, he managed to confuse a major variety of native and worldwide analysts and commentators into pondering what occurred on July 25, 2021 was not a coup and the president is certainly appearing to strengthen Tunisia’s democracy. Even many of the Tunisian public debate on the occasions of July 25 had been targeted on establishing whether or not Saeid’s coup can truly be thought of a coup. Thanks to this confusion, whereas everybody was busy making an attempt to determine whether or not what occurred was “legal” or not, Saied has efficiently launched a exact legalistic programme of autocratic consolidation and dismantled the judicial system and civil organisations by a collection of decrees, established a monopoly over the state media and criminalised dissent.
And as he strikes to finalise his energy seize by passing a brand new structure, Saied remains to be making an attempt to confuse the world and the Tunisian public into pondering that his main goal is to additional democratic rights and freedoms within the nation. The president’s new structure, for instance, repeatedly emphasises the significance of “the will of people”, human rights, elementary freedoms and the rule of regulation.
And but, Saied’s actions previously yr clearly display that he has no real interest in serving the desire of the folks or furthering democracy within the nation. Indeed, since his energy seize, the president has solely proven a cynical contempt for democracy and fact.
He excluded opposition events and civil organisations from the drafting of the brand new structure. He persecuted his main political opponent, Rached Ghannouchi, the top of the Ennahdha celebration, and froze his financial institution accounts and people of different Ennahdha figures on alleged expenses of cash laundering. He additionally dissolved the Supreme Judicial Council and sacked greater than 57 judges. More not too long ago, he dominated that solely his allies may take part within the public debate on the proposed structure and the July 25 referendum. He additionally made positive that the constitutional referendum shouldn’t be an actual referendum. Voting towards the proposed structure appears to be futile as a result of the deliberate referendum is barely “consultative”, and Tunisia’s new dictator – who’s in fact additionally accountable for the elections authority – will make the ultimate choice.
Legalistic autocrats like Saied hypocritically embrace elections and referendums to befuddle any critics and advance their autocratic program. As Kim Lane Scheppele, professor of sociology and worldwide affairs at Princeton University, argues, “The autocratic legalists often make a giant public show of being governed by and governing within the law, changing the law and even the constitution itself with impeccably legal (if illiberal) methods. But underneath the legal reforms carried out in the name of democracy is the illiberal sensibility of the autocrat and the steady consolidation of power in fewer and fewer hands.”
Tunisia’s upcoming constitutional referendum is nothing greater than one other deceitful try by the area’s newest autocratic legalist, Saied, to leverage the facility and respectability of democratic constitutionalism to consolidate his authoritarian rule. To make their voices heard, Tunisians should boycott this charade. It is the one method they’ll problem Saied’s illegitimate ways and keep away from taking part within the dismantling of the democratic system they labored so arduous and sacrificed a lot to construct.
The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.