Friday (September 24th): Tunisia: Saied Power Grab

Kais Saied
Kais Saied

Name? Kais Saied

Westphalian identity? Tunisian

Age? 63

Why is he in the news? In July, Tunisian President Kais Saied suspended the National Parliament and ousted his Prime Minister, invoking his constitutional emergency powers. He promised to choose a new PM but recently, Saied signed a decree which effectively installed one-man rule in the country. After scrapping much of the Constitution, Saied noted he wishes Tunisia to be “a true democracy in which the people are truly sovereign,” implying he looks to make big changes. 

Why do we care? After the so-called Arab Spring, Tunisia was the West’s favourite example of a country moving from a dictatorship to being known as ‘the most stable Arab democracy.’ Though President Saied’s move to essentially lead the country without any interference, ultimately degrades this progress. If there is one thing we know for sure, it is that giving up power and control is not easy for any leader.

Why should you care? Saied’s most recent power grab has a strong potential to reinforce alliances with regional authoritarian leaders. In April, Saied met with Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi regarding the Ethiopian Dam crisis which plays a testament to the direction in which Tunisia’s foreign policy will be moving- towards regional strongmen. The regional implications of the power grab should make you care 4/10. 

Who else cares? President al-Sisi supported Saied’s previous power grab in July alongside Saudi Arabia and the UAE. An authoritarian led Tunisia is will be a welcome addition in their efforts against the spread and rise of political Islam, namely the Muslim Brotherhood, in the region. 

Any further comments? Saied has also been criticized for the politicization of the armed forces of Tunisia, who have been historically entirely apolitical. Recently, Saied promoted military members to civilian positions and oftentimes placed them beside him during a speech-both against Tunisian norms. Reassuring to know that he wants to implement a real civil democracy …