The clash of legitimacy

Parliament, rejected by a large majority of Tunisians, met in plenary on Wednesday, March 30, 2022. Rejected, insulted, rejected, so that when the measures were announced by the President of the Republic on July 25, the relief had been there. Deputies are back today to reverse the president’s actions, they say.

The day after a visit by the US Deputy Secretary of State for Democracy and Human Rights, the operation to regain power by parliamentarians was launched. Leave Rached Ghannouchi from leading the session. The map of the Islamist leader who is very “burned”. Also leave the first vice president, Samira Chaouachi, a member of the Qalb Tounes party, whose leader is currently in the wild. It was on Tarek Fetiti, second vice president, “independent” that there was consensus. However, some deputies, who called for a plenary session to confront the president, did not want to get wet, associating their return to the scene with the image of the Islamist leader and the figures criticized by Tunisians.

The maneuver had been under preparation for some time. All you had to do was choose the right timing, gather as many people as possible and have your back. A group of about thirty non-Islamist deputies had launched an appeal on March 25 for a plenary session. The idea is to put disputes and divisions aside in order to overthrow the hegemony of the head of state and simply suppress his decisions after 25 July. On the same day, Rached Ghannouchi, Speaker of the Frozen Parliament, convened a meeting of the ARP office, which set the date for the plenary session. The machine is started. Kaïs Saïed has no choice but to see things happen, he who has always refused to dissolve parliament and has contented himself with freezing his activities in accordance, according to him, with the Constitution. Some expected spectacular action, including house arrest by the instigators, but the authorities preferred to do something sneaky / absurd by censoring the Zoom application.

A bill was put to the vote: annulment of all presidential decrees issued after 25 July, in particular those relating to the extension of extraordinary measures, Decree 117 and that of establishing the Temporary General Council of the Judiciary. Article 2 of the text stipulates that the law must be published in the Official Journal of the European Union and on Parliament’s website. Except that this Parliament is no longer in control. He was removed from decision-making circles. The trick that has been found is that the law should come into force at the time of the plenary vote. However, a law only becomes law if we have the means to apply it and Parliament has none.

Why have we come to this point? What is the concrete value of this action by parliamentarians? Who will emerge victorious from this institutional showdown?

For the legalists, the ARP is within its rights and has all the legitimacy to overthrow the president of the republic, the very one who monopolized power and froze the assembly in a constitutional distortion.

For Kais Saïed’s opponents, he failed, he did not know how to ensure that the deterioration of the socio-economic situation and the state stalemate is the favorable occasion to expel him.

For all the others, a large part of the Tunisian people, including those who are very critical of the President, it is inconceivable that this “abominable” parliament should take over the reins, that this parliament, which has failed and which has been, to a large extent,, the origin of the crisis determines the future of the country.

The clash of legitimacy. Here we are. An elected parliament, frozen, which proclaims presidential decisions obsolete. An acclaimed president who kicked into the anthill on a destructive and disintegrating political scene and threatened to crack down on a coup by parliamentarians.

So what is this political maneuver of elected representatives worth? If we assume that they have legitimacy, we could consider that all presidential steps are no longer necessary, that the government has fallen e.g. However, they do not have the discretion to apply this law. But this approach will for them constitute a strong pressure on the head of state and a foil against foreign powers. The goal they seek to achieve is now to impose their political pace by putting the need for dialogue on their own terms on the table. The conditions are clearly explained in the press release from the 27, especially the organization of early legislative elections, but also presidential elections. What Kais Saïed does not imagine at all, not until he has made his constitutional vote and his reform of the electoral law.

The danger of this maneuver would be the atomization of the foundation and the unity of the state. A destabilization that would destroy already precarious balances. The image that will be sent back to foreign partners is that Tunisia is going through an insoluble constitutional crisis between two institutions that claim to be legitimate without the possibility of reconciliation. In this battle for power, because it is only about that, in reality, which side wins the game, the country will come out of it more weakened than ever, the citizen more poor than ever.

Ikhlas Latif

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