Protests have started in Tunisia on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the revolution. The protests spread beyond the borders of the capital, Tunis, to almost all major cities, With Increased instability. More than a thousand protesters have been arrested. Ignoring fears of a corona epidemic, the protests could turn the tide of regional politics.
Tunisia has not been spared the sudden onset of the Corona epidemic across the world. Tourism provides about 20 percent of Tunisia’s GDP. But due to the epidemic, tourism revenue has dropped by almost half compared to other years. Due to which unemployment has increased by 20 to 25 percent. About 15 to 25 percent of the country’s 11 million people work in the tourism industry. Added to this economic woe is new political instability. Rumors of protests, military coups and terrorist attacks have destabilized people’s lives in Tunisia. But the story has never been so dirty in Tunisia for 10 years.
What has happened in both Egypt and Tunisia is clear. But even then they needed some excuse for this cue incident. General CC got that opportunity after millions of people in Egypt took to the field against Morsi. And in Tunisia, Kayes Said took the opportunity to play only after the government showed extreme failure in controlling the pandemic. Notably, the Tunisian coup was planned even earlier. But the president implemented it at a time when public outrage was intensifying after the horrific deterioration of the Covid situation.
So if Ghannushi had been more liberal or more radical, Nahda could have survived in power- there are no signs of that. On the contrary, if they were more skilled and qualified, if they had skyrocketing popularity, if the power structure of the country was different, then maybe they would have a chance to survive. Then maybe even after the announcement of the coup, people like Turkey would have taken to the streets and thwarted the coup.
That’s right, Tunisia’s ousted government has failed to deliver on many of its Arab Spring promises. The number of unemployed was increasing day by day. Meanwhile, Corona’s paw has further degraded the living standards of the people. For these reasons, anti-government protests began to take shape. The next election would give the Tunisian people a chance to elect a new government. The president himself and his supporters in the bureaucracy have seized power during the Corona. Protesters stormed and set fire to Annahad’s office. It seems that the target of the protesters is not the Prime Minister or his government; they have targeted the Annahada party.
In the post-Arab spring period, the Brotherhood-affiliated Annahada Party formed alliances with secular parties in Tunisia. Although the Annahada Party favored the introduction of Sharia law in Tunisia, it eventually withdrew from the conservative position and a new constitution was introduced in 2014. The new constitution includes issues of individual freedom, women’s rights and the rights of minorities. Despite all this, Annahada failed to win the confidence of Tunisian secularists. Secular parties are in no way interested in sharing power with Annahada. The Tunisian incident proves that despite being an Islamist party, Annahada was as liberal in negotiating with the secularists as the liberal secular parties were in taking a hard line not to compromise with Annahada.
After the fall of the Tunisian government, many are commenting that political Islam has failed. In this case, they also mentioned the fall of the government of Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. However, Brotherhood-backed parties have collapsed in the same way in both countries. Protests have forced the Morsi government in Egypt and the Tunisian government to step down. But the government of Fatah Sisi, which came to power after Morsi in Egypt, has not been able to change the situation. On the contrary, along with the economic crisis, repression has increased. There is no guarantee that Qais Saeed will not emerge as the new Ben Ali soon; rather, he can move forward on the path of establishing dictatorship. So in Egypt and Tunisia, not political Islam, but democratic forces are not being allowed to stand on tactics.
Arguably, the problem is internal and regional political play. Arab politics stands in a difficult equation. If any party fails to run the government, a new government will come in the election. If the Islamists can’t, secular power will come to power. But in Arab countries, the path to elections has been blocked.
Therefore, the fall of the Tunisian government should not only be seen as a failure of political Islam, the Brotherhood or the Annahada Party, but also the politics of the whole of Arabia. There are allegations that the proxy powers of the West like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt’s Sisi and Libya’s Khalifa Haftar have a hand in the fall of the Tunisian government and the protests. They are afraid that if there is a regular change of power in any Arab country through elections, a wave of democratic movement will start in other countries as well.
However, even if the reason for the recent protests is said to be economic, it is not possible to keep the protests away from the reckoning of regional politics. The protests are centered on determining the future of a number of important issues in regional politics.
First, the year 2024 is the year of the next parliamentary and presidential elections in Tunisia. Much like Turkey’s AKP, Nahda has directly moved away from “religion-based” politics and compromised with “secularism”, which has increased the acceptance of An Nahdar. An Nahdar’s strong position is by no means a happy one for the Saudi-Emirati-French zone. Second, on the Libya question, Tunisia, especially An Nahda, has gradually become embroiled in the Libyan war. Rashid al-Ghannouchi has “declared support” for a Turkish-Qatari-backed national unity government in Tripoli. In that case, the interests of the Saudi-Emirati-French bloc in Libya will be in jeopardy if An Nahda is not ousted from power in Tunisia. Third, in Tunisia, the current ruling party, the An Nahda Party, also shares the Brotherhood’s ideological position. Otherwise, the Muslim Brotherhood is more likely to do well in the upcoming elections in Libya and Sudan with the help of Tunisia.
One of the purposes of such protest is to suppress the Brotherhood, just as there were protests in Sudan in 2019 against Omar al-Bashir. This calculation of regional politics also involves the normalization of relations with Israel in Tunisia. The Saudi bloc has been pressuring Tunisia to establish bilateral relations with Israel.
Presumably, by capitalizing on these protests, the Saudi-Emirati-France bloc will become the main controller of Tunisian politics. Any political change in Tunisia would encourage them against the democratic system, including the destruction of Libya’s upcoming political agreement. Yet, the infinite long path of history is still ahead.