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Tunisia on crossroad amidst political strife, pandemic

By Nasser Al-Otaibi

TUNIS, Aug 4 (KUNA) -- Tunisia is yet again at a crossroad due to the political strife over the suspension of parliament and government by President Kais Saied as well as the gloomy situation of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Last Sunday evening, President Saied announced exceptional measures based on article 80 of the constitution, dismissing Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi from his duties and suspending parliament for a period of 30 days.
The measures also included lifting immunity from MPs and with President Saied, who was yet to name a Prime Minister of his choosing, running the affairs of Tunisia.
All of these political happenings had garnered attention from Arab, regional and international observers; however, the Tunisia people have something else to worry about namely the spread of the coronavirus, which had increase economic and social pressures.
Back to the political scene, President Saied reflected, in his statement to the national and global audiences, that he would act within the constitution, assuring all that the situation was under control.
While Saied's words might reflect a hopeful outcome of the political strife, not all share the President's views.
Rached Ghannouchi -- co-founder of Ennahdha Party (the Renaissance) Party and Speaker of parliament -- said that his party will "provide any concession to bring back democracy," adding that the constitution was above any attempts to hold on to authority.
In a recent statement to French press, Ghannouchi called for a "national dialogue" in Tunisia.
A recent poll carried out by EMRHOD Consulting -- a market research and opinion polling office, located in the North African region -- revealed that 87 of Tunisia were in favor of the President's measures.
The poll, which was carried out between July 26-28, comprised 900 people from 24 provinces including those in major cities and people in the countryside. Only three percent objected to President Saied policies.
A supporting poll focused on the suspension of parliament found 84 percent of Tunisians were in favor of the step while six percent were against it.
Polling numbers might give a rough indication of what the political scene in Tunisia is experiencing, but a number of organizations and unions in Tunisia are insisting that President Saied should declare a roadmap to pull the country from its economic and health dilemmas.
A joint statement by Tunisian union of workers, the press association, and other organizations called on President Saied to avoid "creating" a political quagmire that would drag on for years.
It demanded a clear 30-day timetable to address pressing matters such as countering the spread of the coronavirus, revising elections laws and the political system, in addition to combating corruption.
Though there are opposing political parties and figures to all of what President Saied had done, some entities are in favor of the decisions, but similar to the opposition, they are calling for a roadmap to bring back normalcy.
Parties such as the democratic current, led by Ghazi Chaouachi, urged the President to provide a roadmap to bring Tunisia out of the current situation, but it laid the blame on the political descend on parliament Speaker Ghannouchi and Ennahdha Party.
With the tug-of-war continuing amongst the political elite over the Presidential decisions, President Saied had undertook what some thought was a "a bizarre initiative" through the launch of reconciliation initiative with 460 businessmen accused of embezzling USD 4.6 billion from public funds.
As stipulated by the national committee to investigate bribery and corruption, President Saied released a statement calling on the businessmen to engage in a process of "punitive" reconciliation where they would hand back embezzled money to help develop infrastructure and launch projects in poor areas.
The Tunisian political upheaval did garner reactions from the Arab and international communities with most global leaders and organizations supporting cooperation and dialogue.
Kuwait Foreign Minister and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Nasser Mohammad Al-Sabah received a call from Tunisian Foreign Minister Othman Jerandi and discussed the developments in Tunisia.
Saudi Arabia, through its Foreign Ministry, expressed called on the international community to aid Tunisians against their economic and health challenges.
Qatari Amir Tamim Al-Thani said, in a phone conversation with President Saied, that Tunisians must overcome their political dilemma through respect of law, state institutions, and the aspiration of the Tunisian people.
Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, also affirmed strong partnership with Tunisia and support of the Arab country's quest to overcome its economic and COVID-19 crises.
The UK urged Tunisians to protect their political gains, affirming that the British government was following up on the situation in the country.
Russia also called for handling the situation in Tunisia within the mainframe of the law.
The international organizations such as the UN, the AU, the EU, and others all released statements encouraging Tunisian leading figures to resolve their differences via calm and constructive dialogue to bring back equilibrium. (end) nmo.gta