For the first time since Kaïs Saïed’s ascension to power (now we can truly speak of an ascension), National Women’s Day was celebrated with great fanfare under the presidency of the wife of the head of state.
Of course, Ichraf Chebil was accompanied by the President of the Government, Najla Bouden. But the latter was, true to her habit, self-effacing as ever, had difficulty reading her text and visibly tried to go unnoticed in a ceremony where she, like many other women present, played her role as an extra to better highlight the presence of the president’s wife. We can only salute her for her rejection. In the turn, we could also pay tribute to the Tunisian television, which for a ceremony forgot its public service role and was once again a vulgar propaganda tool.
This did not make the ceremony more attractive or the performance of the wife of the President of the Republic more convincing. Far from there. The approach of “the first lady” was hesitant like all neophytes taking their first steps in public. Also his speech. As for the ceremony, it looked like deja vu and the air smelled of mothballs. She sent back the sad memories of a Leila Ben Ali stuttering a speech she does not master in front of an audience of sycophants and courtiers under the guidance of skilled space drivers like Saïda Agrebi today in exile and Abir Moussi who rose through the ranks to become chairman of a political party while maintaining her style and modus operandi.
This shows how much the presence and the ostentatious script of the wife of the head of state at the official ceremony to celebrate the National Women’s Day revived the fear of a return of “power in the president’s family” and recalled episodes that are still dramatic and painful despite of the passage of time.
It must be admitted that the power of the families of the first political leaders in Tunisia has been a real and constant power for the last eight decades, that is, since the country’s independence. The history of the Republic is also the history of the families of the rulers.
During the time of leader Habib Bourguiba, his wife Wassila Ben Ammar played an important political role, especially on the international stage. Its contribution was visible in the overturning of the Djerba Agreement with Libya in 1975, just hours after it was signed. It was also for a lot in the installation of the Palestinian leadership in Tunis in the early 80s, after their forced departure from Lebanon. At the end of his reign, very old and ill, Bourguiba left the country in the hands of his niece Saida Sassi, who became a master of the art of palace intrigue, hastening the fall of his regime.
Zine Abedine Ben Ali also had his motto: “My family first, everything else second”. First he left the country at the request of his brother Moncef Ben Ali and his son-in-law Slim Chiboub. After the murder of his brother by the Italian mafia and the disgrace of his son-in-law, his wife’s family, ignorant and thirsty for power and money, stormed the country and ransacked its finances. To summarize, Ben Ali only happened to be the President of the Republic. But he was the full-time clan leader.
After the revolution, Rached Ghannouchi continued the tradition. His son-in-law Rafik Abdessalem Bouchlaka, his son Mouadh, his daughter Soumaya, his nephew Habib Khedher and others have become key players in the Tunisian chess board.
For his part, President Béji Caïd Essebsi had failed to make his son Hafedh his political heir. But it was because of the son’s incompetence and not because of a lack of trying.
Since the arrival of Kaïs Saïed, his brother Naoufel’s periodic forays into the political sphere have been poorly received. Rumors that no one wanted to believe spoke of his sister-in-law’s growing influence. With the recent arrival on the scene of his wife, the risk of the return of the old demons becomes real