Concern and frustration at EU silence on Tunisia’s slide to autocracy – EURACTIV.com

“There is a high level of public fear,” Ahmed Gaaloul instructed EURACTIV, as Tunisia’s fragile democracy faces rising threats from an more and more autocratic President.

Last week, Tunisian President Kais Saied moved to dissolve parliament after it voted to repeal his choice to freeze democratic establishments and rule by decree. Since then, MPs have been interrogated, and justice minister Leila Jeffal has requested the general public prosecutor provoke arrest proceedings in opposition to the lawmakers who participated within the session, accusing them of “forming a criminal association” to “endanger the state and cause chaos on the Tunisian territory”.

The potential expenses below the anti-terrorism act carry a sentence between 20 years in jail and the dying penalty. Quite a few MPs are being harassed, significantly those that participated within the session and their households.

Yet regardless of Tunisia’s slide in direction of autocracy, Gaaloul, a former minister from the Ennahda occasion and present advisor to Speaker Rachid Ghannouchi, believes that President Saied’s place is more and more weak.

“I think that Kais Saied will not have time to build a dictatorship because he doesn’t have the tools to do so. For democracy to be successful it needs political and economic stability. A dictatorship needs the same thing. It needs stable governance and economic resources,” he mentioned.

“What we fear is the scenario that is worse than a dictatorship: total chaos. That he is not able to govern, no political buffer, and total despair from the population.”

Nonetheless, opposition teams have been disillusioned by the dearth of help for democracy and condemnation of President Saied’s actions from the EU establishments.

While the United States has introduced that future monetary help for Tunisia can be conditional on the restoration of democratic establishments, and Turkey’s President Recep Erdoğan has described the dissolution of parliament as “a blow against the people”, the EU has been silent.

Instead, the European Commission introduced final week that it could lend Tunisia €450 million in price range help this yr.

Gaaloul believes that geopolitics has contributed to the EU’s silence, declaring that President Saied didn’t wish to vote in opposition to Russia within the United Nations and that provides of Algerian gasoline to Europe, which EU states wish to improve, undergo Tunisia.

“I cannot understand why the EU has taken this stance. The US has the courage to describe things as they are, though until now the international community has not considered Kais Saied’s actions as a coup,” he instructed EURACTIV.

“It is true that the EU considers that Tunisia is on its doorstep and they do not want to lose Tunisia. Everyone knows that Kais Saied was unhappy about voting against Russia on Ukraine, and that the agenda of Saied is dragging Tunisia towards Russia and Iran.”

However, Gaaloul factors out that the quantity of monetary help on provide from the EU to Tunisia won’t remedy the financial disaster within the nation.

In the meantime, regardless of dissolving parliament, President Saied is urgent forward along with his so-called roadmap of constitutional reform, following a web-based session that began in January.

On Wednesday (April 6), Saied introduced that Tunisian parliamentary elections anticipated to be held in December will happen over two rounds, and other people will vote for people moderately than lists as in earlier elections. These plans haven’t been agreed with any political events and, though Saied says {that a} political dialogue can be held, it’s unclear which, if any opposition events, can be included in talks.

The president additionally plans to overtake the composition of the Independent Electoral Commission forward of any elections.

Gaaloul instructed EURACTIV that the leaders of the primary political events are extra unified than they’ve been since final July, when President Saied sacked the federal government, suspended parliament, and started to rule by decree. He added {that a} main demonstration is anticipated to be held on April 10.

But whereas the political deadlock continues, the social and financial disaster dealing with Tunisia continues to deepen.

Saied is now attempting to achieve out to the International Monetary Fund for a monetary help bundle, however that is unlikely to be obtained any time quickly.

Tunisians have been already feeling the results of a decade of financial stagnation and the COVID-19 pandemic earlier than the prospect of wheat shortages attributable to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Ramadan is already a very tough month for Tunisians because they have to queue for bread, oil, most of their basic needs,” mentioned Gaalou, noting that “people live with the threat of food shortages every day. If you go late to the bakery then you will not get bread.”

“During the COVID time, there was a lot of charity. This year, people are not helping each other. We are going through the third year of economic crisis,” he added.

Due to price range pressures, Tunisia had solely been capable of purchase smaller volumes of wheat imports earlier than the Ukraine disaster, although will probably be capable of faucet a €200 million EU fund, together with Morocco, Egypt, and Algeria, designed to mitigate in opposition to the grain shortages ensuing from disruption to grain provide from Ukraine and Russia.

Gaaloul instructed EURACTIV that the financial and social state of affairs will attain its limits in May or June.

“The best-case scenario is that once Kais Saied fails, and he is going to fail, then the opposition will have to present itself as a viable democratic alternative,” Gaaloul mentioned.

“But this will not be possible if the international community does not do its duty in supporting this democracy and giving hope to the Tunisian people that they are there to help them build a democracy that can deliver.”

[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]

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