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Tunisia’s Presidential Takeover Could Spiral Out Of Control, Foreign Powers Eager To Get Involved

In what is being called a coup by leading political parties in Tunisia, the country’s President Kais Saied swiftly froze parliament and relieved the government of its duty, placing complete power in his own hands. This was followed by both protests and celebrations throughout the country, but could quickly turn much more violent if the situation is not controlled.

The sacking of Tunisia’s Prime Minister, Hicham Mechichi, along with the suspension of the country’s parliament for 30 days has been defended by President Saied as being done in accordance with article 80 of the nation’s Constitution. Yet, Tunisia’s biggest political party, Ennahda, has accused him of doing the very opposite of following the Constitution by not notifying anyone of his sudden power grab decision.

As of now, violence on a massive scale is yet to break out, but with countries like the UAE circling Tunis, like vultures, for years now, it may be only a matter of time before the current instability goes to the next level.

Tunisia is often praised as the lone success of the Arab Spring, holding its title as the one true democracy inside the Arab world. Yet, the country has been embroiled in problems of corruption, and following a wave of attacks by Daesh terrorists on tourists in 2015, the economy has been in decline. In fact, for many years political unrest in the country has been growing, with foreign powers such as France and the UAE looking to capitalize.

A notably negative sign of things to come, following the power grab by the President, al-Jazeera’s office in Tunis was reportedly raided by unmarked government forces. This is particularly troubling as al-Jazeera is a Qatari-run news outlet and gives favorable coverage to Muslim Brotherhood linked groups, meaning that if their journalists were being targeted then it may indicate an attempt to crush the Ennahda party.

The Ennahda Party was also under attack from protesters, who had taken to the street the day prior to the recent move of the President, with calls for the leading Party in Parliament to resign. Although there are legitimate grievances of the people with the way the Tunisian government has handled the current crises in the country, there has also long been a concerted effort from Abu Dhabi to stir tensions and remove the party from any position of power.

In fact, the UAE has been accused in the past of attempting to orchestrate coups, to demonize Ennahda through its media apparatus, and attempt to turn the public into mass revolt against the party. 

The mission of the UAE has been to work at toppling Muslim Brotherhood aligned governments throughout the Middle-East, whether they be in Sudan, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, or just the group in general, from Yemen to Syria. Abu Dhabi will favor dictatorships or democracies, seeking to destroy the gains made by the Brotherhood, only then to swoop in and pick up the pieces.

Tunisia underwent a revolution, which ousted former dictator, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, in January of 2011. By October that very same year the Islamic ‘Ennahda party’ won the country’s very first democratic election. The secular opposition at the time, however, had the country deeply divided and foreign powers had a large part to play in fostering such divisions. 

In 2014 there was later a power split organized between Tunisia’s President and Prime Minister, with a new constitution drafted, coming in reaction to political unrest. By 2019 disillusionment had grown rapidly across the country with the political system, that year’s elections ended up bringing to power now President Kais Saied, an independent who did not stand as part of any political party. It was largely seen at that point that the foreign meddling in Tunisia had been overcome, although tensions began to rise.

Earlier this year, it had become clear that the cracks in Tunisia’s political system had only exposed themselves further, as a clear rift had been identified between the President, Prime Minister and also the Speaker of Parliament.

It is not yet clear exactly who is behind this current political turmoil, but one thing is for sure, if this move was at best taken by the President in good faith, as a means of protecting his country, he better quickly clean this mess up before foreign powers exploit it. At worst, it has to be considered that this was orchestrated with a foreign power, which if true will mean that the Tunisian people may be in for a tough few months.

Robert Inlakesh
Robert Inlakesh is a documentary filmmaker, journalist, writer, Middle-East analyst & news correspondent for The Last American Vagabond.
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