Under the title “Tunisian democracy in the face of populism,” the director of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, Dr. Azmi Bishara, published a new comment, Tuesday, on the coup carried out by President Kais Saied in Tunisia.
Dr. Azmi Bishara’s comment, according to what was stated in his post, which was monitored by (Watan) on Facebook, focused on 10 main points, which are:
- At the height of the disappointment of those who “old” since 2013 because the last candle in the “Arab exception” has been extinguished, the news spread about the positions of the Tunisian political and civil elite, which ranged from rejecting the coup against the constitution to reservations about it (cautious, not leniency). All political parties, left, liberal (conservative and non-conservative) and Islamic (except for two parties), have expressed their rejection of the president’s steps. The major civil institutions had reservations about it, or they expressed their reservations. The majority of Tunisian jurists also rejected the president’s legal interpretations of the constitution.
- In my last book on the democratic transition and its problems, and in the context of analyzing the success of the transition in Tunisia and its failure in Egypt, I confirmed my disagreement with modernization studies regarding the consideration of modernization criteria as the main difference between success and failure, pointing to the important difference in the culture of political elites between the two countries.
In Tunisia, the main political elites showed a willingness to dialogue in light of their commitment to the democratic process, while in Egypt some preferred alliances with elements of the old regime or even with a military coup against their opponents. Since yesterday, the Tunisian elites’ refusal to overturn democracy confirms this impression.
Azmi Bishara: Tunisian democracy in the face of populism
- Populism as a political discourse and mood has been a major challenge to democracy in Tunisia. Tunisian democracy has not been able to overcome it, but has inflamed it, including in the discourse of the media competing for excitement and attraction of listeners and viewers (particularly irresponsible and unprofessional from it) and in the cross-party exchanges in Parliament (this is how I include them in terms of responsibility as well).
- The biggest disaster was the election of a president without a prominent professional, militant or political record, but rather because of his concave populist rhetoric. (It is paradoxical that those who inflame the populist discourse against the political, partisan and cultural elites among the public are usually members and elements of the same elite, for ideological, self-serving or accessional reasons. anger and vengeful political rhetoric from the elite in general).
- The Tunisian Prime Time Zone suffer from numerous economic problems exacerbated by high expectations of the new regime, and disappointments in some cases have led to a yearning for the old regime. Tunisian democracy has not been able to meet expectations and solve problems with development plans and steps. Undoubtedly, the inability of the ruling coalitions, as well as partisan wrangling and the opposition’s desire to thwart any coalition contributed to this. No steps were taken to raise the electoral threshold needed to enter parliament to reduce the number of small blocs and facilitate the formation of coalitions and the work of governments.
- Disappointment with Parliament was manifested in the decline in voter turnout, as well as in voting in the presidential elections for a populist candidate whose weakness (lack of political experience) turned into strength because he seemed to be not political. This candidate who became president not only declared his inexperience, but also confirmed that he did not vote in any elections in a democratic Tunisia. This is an expression not only of a disdain for democracy, but of a lack of interest in the public sphere on the part of a person who ran for the presidency, and a deep psychological feeling that no one deserves to give him his vote. This is an anti-democratic psychological construct.
These are the main signs of anti-democratic populism
- Politics agitation by politicians is one of the most important signs of anti-democratic populism. There is no democracy without politics and politicians. The dictator is the worst kind of politician because he is the most used of conspiracy, trickery and violence, but he claims to rise above politics.
- The task of the hour is the cooperation of the Tunisian national political and civic elites, despite the differences, in facing the dangers facing democracy. This includes confronting populism by exposing its true goals and by addressing the Prime Time Zone and answering their fears.
- All authoritarian regimes face economic and social problems, and all of them have faced the Corona pandemic and others. The democracies (which remain the most attractive, we have not heard of Tunisians or others migrating to live in Russia, China, Hungary, Poland, as well as North Korea) are facing economic and social difficulties, and some of them have used the army in the face of the epidemic, but the army did not forget, during the performance of exceptional tasks, that it must abide by the constitution . Democracies face problems within a democratic system.
- Democracy in itself is a solution to the scourge of tyranny and tyranny and a guarantee of citizens’ rights, not a solution to economic and social problems. This is the function of the political and social forces, the policies of the ruling forces, and the institutions of governance, within the framework of the democratic system, which must be preserved, because the alternative is tyranny.
And yesterday, Monday, Azmi Bishara said that it is possible to save democracy in Tunisia, referring to the recent developments that followed the coup of President Kais Saied.
Dr. Azmi Bishara said in a post entitled (Democracy in Danger) on Facebook that defending democracy is the task of the living forces of the Tunisian Prime Time Zone and is not a matter of partisan division. Commitment to the democratic system is not a partisan issue.
Bishara added: “Tunisian democracy, the only Arab democracy so far, is a historic achievement that cannot be waived, nor does it seek to solve issues and problems within its framework, like all democracies in the world.”
Dr. continued. Azmi Bishara: “No important Tunisian constitutional expert or law professor has agreed with the president’s interpretations of the constitution since he took office. In general, discussing this or that clause of the constitution with a party that opposes the constitution as a whole is futile, as its interpretation of the constitution is just a cover for anti-constitutional steps.”
A systematic and persistent process to disrupt the work of Parliament
Dr. Azmi Bishara continued: “A systematic and persistent operation took place in Tunisia to disrupt the work of Parliament and the government. (Failure to consult the parliamentary blocs in assigning the prime minister, an attempt to remove the designated prime minister because he did not abide by the president’s directives even though the matter is not within his competence, the presidency’s refusal to receive ministers to take the oath by turning formal procedures into a substantive issue, the refusal to establish a constitutional court to settle the dispute between the authorities and the installation of himself adversary and judge).
And he continued: (Repeatedly transgressing the separation of powers and the balance between them, attempts to involve the army in politics, except for constantly depicting representatives of other authorities in the presidential palace cameras as if they were students listening to a reprimand, the populist pretending to be constantly angry over something corrupt, the lie of the assassination attempt for which he was not held accountable. Pretending to be humble to cover up excessive narcissism and an unbridled desire for exclusivity in government, the blatant populist tone in attacking institutions, parties, elites and politicians as if it was not political, attempts to disrupt parliament sessions by the representative of the remnants of the Constitutional Party, and although they did not succeed, they created the impression that Parliament in a state of chaos, although this was not true).”
Dr. Azmi Bishara said: “The alternatives currently being offered are not divided between parliamentary or presidential democracy, but between democracy and a return to dictatorship, which the president was not known to oppose when Zine El Abidine Ben Ali ruled Tunisia, and he is proud that he did not vote in any elections in democratic Tunisia. He made no secret of his tacit admiration for some of his dictatorial models. In fact, his proposals for another constitution for Tunisia are similar to the model of the revolutionary committees that overshadowed the dictatorship in Libya, or at least they are formulated with the same mentality.”
He mentioned that some Tunisian parties have raised partisan animosity and settling scores above the commitment to democracy. This is a grave mistake. According to “Bishara”
Dr. Azmi Bishara: The attempt has not yet succeeded
Bishara considered that the attempt has not yet succeeded, and the matter depends on the Tunisian Prime Time Zone, as well as on the degree of cooperation shown by the army and the state’s security apparatus with the expansion of the steps taken. It is too early to take a negative attitude towards the army.
Dr. Azmi Bishara said: What the president did was prepared publicly and was expected, and it would be strange and surprising if he did not prepare himself for this scenario.
He pointed out: Violence is absolutely out of the question in confronting this attempt. How far the army goes with the president depends on the movement of the Tunisian street, and the consistency of the majority of parliament in opposing the steps.
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