And now Tunis awaits the moves of the strong man Saied-

from Lorenzo Cremonesi

Deserted streets in the poised city. The president attempts dialogue and forms an alliance with Al Sisi as the virus advances

TUNIS – The almost deserted airport of the capital. No traffic on the roads leading to the center. Shops with shutters down, empty sidewalks. With the approach of seven in the evening, the hour of the start of the curfew, the iron barriers are pulled into the center of the carriageways near the public buildings. The bars on Avenue Bourguiba, the beating heart of the city, are almost all closed. But in front of the parliament that the tense and precarious calm of these hours is more evident. The military withdrew the armored vehicles and the patrols that guarded it between Sunday evening and Monday. Instead of the demonstrations for and against President Kais Saied, which were confronted between the area of ​​the Bardo Museum and the entrances to the old city, only a few policemen and plainclothes officers were noticed late yesterday afternoon, trying to be seen as little as possible. possible. We are all worried. We don’t know what will happen. From dialogue and reforms to civil war: every option remains open. Now it’s up to the president to prove that he is up to the task. If he can’t restore legitimacy to himself and the political system, it will be chaos, says Nasreddin Louati, a 28-year-old computer scientist walking in front of parliament.

Thus Tunisia lives these uncertain hours. Probably the most difficult and full of unknowns since the hopeful days of the Arab Spring in January 2011. It seems risky to draw conclusions. But 48 hours yesterday from what the leader of the Islamic Ennahda party, Rashid Ghannouchi, continues to define the coup d’état of President Saied – who in a single move on July 25, coinciding with the 64th anniversary of the Republic Day, has the government resigned and parliament frozen for at least a month – the country remains motionless, waiting. Impossible to predict what will happen. Violence and terrorism are around every corner. But every hour that passes without anything serious happening turns into a viaticum for a peaceful solution, say the journalists of the French-language newspaper The Daily. Caution applies. About 8,000 young Tunisians joined the ranks of Isis in 2014-15. They were among the most fanatic, ready to fight and die between Raqqa, Mosul and Sirte. What to do Ennahda? Historically Ghannouchi has always been close to the moderate ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood. But also his party divided into currents. Nothing excludes that the most extremist ones do not take the opportunity to stage violent protests. Ghannouchi for his part tries to create a national front against the coup d’état and also to relaunch the dialogue with the president. We want to increase the pressure to return to the democratic system, he says. I don’t want to see a single drop of blood. We need to stay calm and not give in to provocations, says Saied.

The international community is also concerned. The European Union and the United States call for respect for democracy. Italy takes the field by proposing itself as the prime mover of European coordination together with the other most interested countries such as France, Germany and Spain. The Tunisia issue must be addressed with the utmost attention, says Foreign Minister Di Maio.

But here in Tunis the commentators look more to Egypt than to Europe. The relationship between Saied and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi has recently intensified. For about a year now, the links between our countries have been closer. Egypt exports food and sends medical aid in the fight against Covid, says Kamal Zaiem, a well-known journalist. In periodic polls, the president is always given as the winner, the last one at the end of June gave him 52 percent of the preferences. But there is more: it seems that over 60 percent of the population supports Saied’s move. Its strength is based on the image of “Mister clean” that it has among the public opinion. Once, in the days of Ben Ali’s dictatorship before the 2011 revolution, only the men of the regime were accused of corruption. But now the leaders and officials of all parties are massively so. Only Saied comes out clean. People particularly appreciated his choice to sack Justice Minister Hasna Ben Sliman, accused of hiding evidence against Ennahda deputies. People tired of the parliamentary immunity enjoyed by this joke ruling class, Zaiem continues.

Returning from the parliament towards the old city it is not difficult to notice that practically all passers-by wear a mask. Covid is scary. The official dead are almost 19,000. But nobody knows the real numbers. They are like those of unemployment: the government claims that its rate is close to 18 percent, for media and social networks they speak of 40. All reasons that fuel discontent and that Saied promises to resolve. For him the most difficult test is yet to come.

July 27, 2021 (change July 27, 2021 | 22:29)


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