On 27 July 2021, InterRegional for Strategic Analysis held a panel discussion, “Future Paths: What Comes Next After Tunisian President Kais Saied’s Decisions?”, featuring Mohamed Al-Sbitli, Head of the African Studies Unit at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh. Researchers at the center’s headquarters and the non-resident work group in Cairo were also in attendance.
The workshop addressed several key issues, most importantly the president’s vision for Tunisia’s future based on the moves and decisions he has made in recent days, the positions of various political forces vis-à-vis the president’s extraordinary decisions, and the range of support his decisions have in the Tunisian street. The discussion also touched on the challenges that may hinder the implementation of the Tunisian president’s measures and thinking during the transitional phase, the projected paths within the Tunisia in light of the country’s current reality, and the opportunities for realizing those scenarios.
In light of the extraordinary decisions the Tunisian president began making since July 25, the attendees stressed that the president’s vision for Tunisia’s future revolves around the intent to ensure the existence of strong and stable governments, change the nature of the current political system (whereby the country moves from a mixed parliamentary system to a presidential system), and organize early legislative and presidential elections.
With regards to the opinions of political forces vis-à-vis President Saied’s decisions, the attendees noted that there are three main positions. First, some forces, led by the players that promoted the July 25 demonstrations, the Tunisian street in general, and certain political parties, such as the People’s Movement, Free Destourian Party, and Democratic Patriots’ Unified Party, approve of and support the president’s decisions. According to the workshop participants, other forces completely oppose those decisions, most notably the Tunisian Communist Party, Ennahda Movement, Heart of Tunisia (Qalb Tounes), and Dignity Coalition (Al-Karama). Finally, the attendees referenced a third group that has staked out a middle ground vis-à-vis these decisions, in line with the position of the Tunisian General Labor Union and the Employers’ Union, due to their conditional approval.
The panel also stressed that the most significant challenges threatening the measures that President Saied will take during the transitional period lie in the complex nature of the country’s current crisis. In that regard, Tunisia is facing a severe economic crisis, a record rise in the number of coronavirus infections, and an ongoing state of political stagnation. Moreover, according to the discussion, the country is facing a current rise in the ceiling of popular aspirations, rampant corruption within the state, intense pressure from the Ennahda Movement in the coming period, and opposition to the president’s decisions from some key players and forces, such as Ennahda and the like.
With regards to the projected paths within the Tunisian context, the panelists emphasized that they are limited to two forms: either the president completes the path of reform that he started (whether the Ennahda Movement and his opponents agree to that or not); or, negotiations and consultations take place among various political forces and players regarding the president’s decisions, which may include concessions such as changing the head of the Ennahda Movement, Rached Ghannouchi.