Tunisian mists

(To Gino Lanzara)

The Tunisian events require a series of quick reflections, but no less relevant for this. The Mediterranean is a systemic area, and what happens a short distance from the coasts of one of the countries bathed by its waters cannot fail to be reflected in it.

The Arab springs, a political phenomenon of the first decade of the new century, have given way to the normal flow of time and seasons; of the inspirations that seemed to have brought, however, little or nothing remained, which leads us to ask ourselves several questions about their originality and authentic strength, coming to the conclusion that the revolutionary movements, seasonal or colorful, did not possess the merit of genuineness , and while shaking many political foundations, they have not historically affected as several Western chancelleries stolidly imagined. The reaction has often taken the form of institutional stiffening, a return to typical practices of social and political cultures that the West refuses to understand.

The speech given by President Obama at Cairo University in 2009, while perfectly fitting an enthusiastic style them Yankee, did not properly breach the Middle East; all to say that, as recent history has recalled by dint of blows, Chicago is not Baghdad. After all, because the obligation should find peaceful acceptance in MO politically correct to understand ideas that in the West there is an unfounded presumption of being able export universally? A presumption that, in Benghazi, made Washington bruised, powerless in the face of the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens.

The Tunisian revolt projects its reasons from the past, highlights both the interpretative errors committed over time, especially the failure to discern the socio-economic differences existing between the various areas of the country, and in having given way to the controversial formations of political Islam to conquer space. Racheed Ghannouchi, in Tunisia, he brings Ennahdha, a religiously inspired movement to the altars1 that, on the Obama emotional wave, concretely impalpable, is cleared through customs as insertable within secular democratic and pluralist contexts.

The idea is so perfect that, in 2018, Tunisians are once again in the streets to demonstrate against high cost of living, inflation and unemployment; if the IMF knocks on loan repayments demanding planned but never implemented reforms, it is clear that something has gone wrong. The currency is weak, regional disparities are even more pronounced, tourism, a fundamental economic voice, collapses following the 2015 attacks on the Bardo Museum and in Sousse2.

In 2018, Tunisia is as if divided in two, and Riyadh's loans do not cover the debt contracted with the IMF, accused of neo-colonial policies that aim to reduce public function, spending and debt by increasing VAT and devaluing the dinar; in a net importing country like Tunisia, the economic crisis is excruciating, wages do not compensate for the increases, and nothing promised is coming true. After all, an economy cannot be improvised, especially when it depends on foreign demand and capital; Tunisian politics has neglected any initiative aimed at structural transformations and the fight against corruption.

Several projects animated by the international community have also contributed to exacerbating the country's socio-economic problems and disparities: the free trade agreement with the European Union has been opposed by various Tunisian organizations since it benefits EU producers, facilitated in introducing the Tunisian market without being subject to any redistributive obligation, while foreign debt is increasing.

In 2019, the Tunisian liberal front is still meditating on the defeat gained in the political and presidential elections; it is the symbol of the failure of liberal formations, suffering from corruption, nepotism, clientelism, social ills to which is added the pandemic, which reveals to the world the vulnerabilities of a rapidly collapsing health system. THE Liberal they disappear, resists Ennahdha, inspirer of a political compromise that tries to oppose the presidency of Kaïs Saïed, jurist and university professor, opponent of the party system and proud critic of the ineffectiveness of such a democracy.

In 2020, in a context weakened by the economic crisis and pandemic, the executive of Elves Fakhfakh, prime minister chosen by Saïed and accused of conflict of interest, also falls; in the background the continuing friction between the president and Ennahdha, the political entity, opportunistically good for all seasons, always present in any executive, now with Qalb Tounes, the liberal and populist party of the magnate Nabil Karoui.

The time has come for Hichem Mechichi, Minister of the Interior in the Fakhfkah cabinet and former legal advisor to the head of state. The expectations of 2011, for 9 years, were not met, and the Tunisian democracy, born from the ashes of the Ben Ali regime, proved unable to overcome national problems. Mechichi, like Fakhfakh, is the effigy of a sort of non-party technical government of the president which, in reality, aims to weaken Ennahdha, which is increasingly pervasive also in foreign policy, especially as regards Libya, an aspect that allows us to appreciate the increasingly marked confluence between Ghannouchi, Qatar and Turkey, which Saïed denies the use of the Tunisian territory as an outpost for war activities in favor of the GNA of Tripoli.

The action of the Mechichi executive was immediately slowed down by the absolute lack of collaboration on the part of the majority and by the lack of social support; in the first 100 days, the Mechichi government was unable to approve any of the bills presented in parliament, and highlighted the fault between the two main majority groups, Ennahdha and Qalb Tounes.

It is worth recalling how the parliamentary debate has progressively deteriorated thanks to the most extreme formations, such as the radical Islamist movement Al Karama, and the Free Desturian Party, anti-Islamist and nostalgic for the ancien regime.

The relationship between Ennahdha and the security aspect is such as to force the president to guarantee the impartial application of the law following the investigations carried out by the commission of inquiry which, regarding the murder of the opponents M. Brahmi and S. Belaid in 2013, ascertains responsibility directly borne by the Islamist formation.

To date, Tunisia is left to itself, and wonders about the actual posthumous usefulness of its revolution. The Tunisian collapse is close to generating a critical wave pushed by a dangerous one all against all and where, all, starting with the magistrates, they try to carve out a substantial portion of benefits, while the north-south split deepens, implementing the risk of creating new radicalized elements.

The Presidency of the Republic and the executive come to loggerheads in January 2021 when Mechichi, presenting the list of new ministers, clashes with Saïed's lack of endorsement, who appeals to reasons of expediency regarding the incompatibility of several designated, de facto opening an institutional political crisis: the president, rising to his office with the strong support of the young part of society, becomes a defender of the constitution and an enemy of corruption.

In the meantime, the institutional dispute affects the economy, per capita income collapses together with investments, the IMF, which asks for reforms with accounting dullness that ignores socio-political repercussions, does not issue other loans, instead granted by the World Bank: the sleep of the revolution generates the jihadist monster, which recruits followers from the generation raised in the hope of freedom and well-being; it is useful to remember that unemployment is higher than 15% and that, in some centers, it reaches peaks of 30%.

According to the National Institute of Statistics, one third of Tunisian youth is unemployed, while one fifth of the population lives below the poverty line; the Coronavirus pandemic and the terrorist threat have worsened the Tunisian economic situation, two phenomena that have annihilated a vital sector, tourism, which represents about 8% of the national GDP.

According to the IMF, Tunisian growth will return to below 3% at least until 2025, an assessment that led the Tunisian government, in the course of 2020, to use additional financial resources that have caused the budget deficit to rise to 14% of GDP. , with an increase of the public debt to 85%. The economic difficulties will lead to a worsening of the standard of living and an increase in poverty, which will grow between 7,3 and 11,9%.

At this moment, while Tunisia is one step away from default, Saïed is leaning on France, Ennahdha on Turkey, while the script announces new events in 30 days, at the expiry of the presidential measures arranged on 25 July after a summit with the Armed Forces and security services. Saïed, in fact, by activating the provisions of art. 803 of the Constitution, by ousting Mechichi, suspending both parliamentary activities and related immunities, beat Ennahdha in the sprint; all this while the number of infections increases, and the decayed executive is attributed precise responsibilities regarding the chaotic management of the emergency characterized by the lack of vaccines, medical oxygen (supplied by Libya!), and by over 18.000 deaths.

Did Saïed carry out a coup, or is he the protagonist of a desperate attempt to save what can be saved? The scene can be observed from both perspectives, even reaching the hypothesis of the birth of the third Tunisian republic. There is no doubt that the president, legitimately active from the point of view of the constitutional powers that see him responsible for foreign policy relations (particularly disliked by Ennahdha those he had with the Egypt of Al Sisi, a sworn enemy of political Islam)4, has assumed full constitutional powers, with the promise both to strike corruption, the mythical bakshish, and to appoint a leader of his trust in compliance with the constitutional provision.

But who controls the controller? And at the same time: who censors the censors? Certainly it was not his responsibility for the failure to establish the Constitutional Court, caused by the struggle between political factions, just as it is not his fault for the political stalemate due to the pathological confusion of a markedly Islamic executive, with a fragmented Parliament conditioned by Ennahdha and penalized by the lack of communication with Ghannouchi, appointed to the parliamentary presidency and rightly terrified of a possible electoral round5 which, in the projections, sees it in sharp decline.

According to the most elementary dictates of the hot water's discovery, to overcome the constitutional impasse, instead of reaching a political compromise, Ghannouchi decided to resort to the classic stroke of genius, by presenting a new draft law to Parliament that modifies the procedures for electing the members of the Supreme Court, lowering the quorum necessary to confirm the members.

Incredibly Saïed decided not to cooperate with his antagonists, refusing to sign the bill and sending it back to Parliament for a second reading.

Mechichi, accused of being at the mercy of the Muslim Brotherhood, has assumed responsibility for the state of crisis; this, however, did not grant him any popular forgiveness for having transformed the fight against the pandemic into yet another friction between the President and Parliament, then trying to put the blame on Health Minister Faouzi Mehdi.

Ennahdha is now at an all-time low, and is attempting to relaunch by accusing the president of a coup d'état, despite the fact that a large part of public opinion has identified the Islamist formation as responsible for the crisis that is leading the country to civil war, knowing full well that the dominus third remains Erdoğan, for whom Ennahdha constitutes a fundamental element for its North African expansion, especially now that the Libyan situation has become politically in motion and suggests possible December electoral surprises, with the return to the scene of Gaddafi revanchism: the Mavi vatan6 Turkey continues to need continental platforms that allow projection in the MENA under the sign of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Note how Paris, which received Saïed in mid-May, shortly before the activation of art. 80, with the bulletin n. 21 of the Credit Agricole group, wished for one country healthy shock to avoid a default in order to allow the opening of seven new lines of economic cooperation with Tunisia.

Saïed's decision, supported by large sections of the population, opens up unstable scenarios; at the moment, neither an aggravation of the protests with violent clashes that would force the military to take direct control of the situation, nor the appointment of a new prime minister, nor the possibility of reaching a hypothesis of institutional compromise, the most wise and therefore more unlikely. Meanwhile, Saïed also reiterated to Anthony Blinken7 the commitment to respect institutional legitimacy.

But what is the president fighting against? The political struggle has led to an extremization between radical and nostalgic elements, which has minimized the participation of the political and cultural elites. Ennahdha, in order to try to strengthen an Islamist hegemonic image, in order to survive, has composed a coalition with non-denominational formations, and strengthened by the electoral legitimacy of 2011, has silenced any expression of dissent, tolerating radical Islamist expressions and their spokespersons more extremists, such as the Egyptian Wajdi Ghoneim, the Kuwaiti Nabil Al-Awadi, the Salafist party Ettahir, which proposes the establishment of a Caliphate, the Ansar Al-Sharia movement affiliated with Al Qaeda. According to a universally consolidated political practice, having sensed the exhaustion of electoral legitimacy, Ennahdha decides to get closer to the old enemies, the Desturians, opting for the consensus strategy: it is a struggle for survival, it is participation in power avoiding bullets destined for the front line. .

In 2019 Ennahdha pays for its political ambiguity by losing electoral weight: to be party of struggle and government it does not pay off, especially with a president cut off from power games and little versed in ambiguous compromises. There can be no friction between an element coherently extraneous to politics, and who has founded his fortunes on the uprising of the masses for short periods; after all, after 10 years of power, is it so abstruse to believe that any party has not taken root and placed exponents in the nodal points? Demagogy has no boundaries: if on the one hand, despite decades of setbacks and failures, we resort to the call of revolutionary legend, on the other hand a professor of law stands pragmatically who cannot but take note of the civil drama that is about to unfold, amidst oceanic gatherings and incipient poverty.

It is clear that the Western media have simplified the Tunisian case in a straightforward manner, if only for the lack of stigmatization of the attendance of the executives who have taken turns leading a country that has seen the opposition of the UAE - Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

If a note must be made to the president, this concerns the neutralist imprint that does not take into account the strategic needs of a country highly dependent on foreign countries, and that with Maghreb, Algeria of the pouvoir8 projected into the Mediterranean and supported by Russia and Libya, it must necessarily maintain a constructive relationship, unless it intends to throw itself into the suffocating Chinese embrace, opposed by the USA and France.

The criticisms made by some sectors of the international political world are aseptically affected by a lack of analysis and an ideological transport which, faithfully, assigns rewards and punishments; that then the institutional liberal criticism comes from Ankara, directly involved in Tunisian issues, constitutes a reverse litmus test. In fact, the first country consciously interested in the evolution of Tunisian events is precisely Italy; separated by a short stretch of sea, Tunis has always been present in more or less recent peninsular political events; also the idea of ​​a real coup, according to the meanings of Malaparte and Luttwak9, after a more in-depth evaluation, at the moment, finds no basis: shouting at authoritarianism in the conditions in which the deep Tunisian chaos finds itself appears meaningless, also in light of the fact that wanting to express judgments without ever really following the course of events denotes a fair amount of carelessness.

Certainly Italy, on that African spur, is well remembered, both as a massive migratory destination and for the story of waste10 transferred from Campania, discovered at the end of summer 2020, after having violated several international conventions.

Macron and Erdogan understood what the consequences of the evolution of the Tunisian events will be on North African assets, especially on the Libyan side; Italy is politically distant, and despite being the political subject destined to pay the greatest price, it still has to systematize the possible consequences of a not excluded Tunisian institutional collapse.

In a fragmented political context, the Tunisian people, whose main component resides more and more in the female part, is showing disillusionment and distrust towards a ruling class unable to contain the constant decline, and which is leading to direct the next vote towards groups populists and extremists.

1 Party inspired by the Turkish AKP and the Muslim Brotherhood

2 On 26 June 2015 a jihadist commando sowed panic in a resort in the Gulf of Hammamet by shooting on bathers: the toll reported 38 dead and dozens of injured

3 in case of imminent danger that threatens the institutions of the Nation and the security and independence of the country and hinders the regular functioning of public authorities, the President of the Republic may take the measures required by this exceptional situation

4 The president on international relations has exclusive competence; on 17 March he went to Libya, the first foreign head of state to visit since the new government took office; On 5 April he received the President of the European Council at the palace of Carthage. During the same day, Saied also received the secretary general of the Arab League. On 10 April he went to Cairo, where he met with Egyptian President al-Sisi, bluntly siding with Egypt in the ongoing dispute between the Arab country and Ethiopia over the construction of the Gerd dam (Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam) on the Nile. President Saied stated that the construction of the dam is a matter of Arab national security, and that the position of Cairo will also be that of Tunis.

5 Ghannouchi's Islamists would have everything to lose in the event of a return to the polls: the latest poll sees Ennahda stop at 21,9%, surpassed by the Free Destourian Party (35,8%), anti-Islamist and nostalgic front of Ben Ali led by lawyer Abir Moussi.

6 Blue homeland

7 US Secretary of State

8 Military political apparatus

9 Curzio Malaparte, The coup d'état technique; Edward Luttwak, Coup Strategy, Practical Handbook

10 300 tons of waste classified as "civil"