Tunisia: Populist Sarabande in Parliament

Invective, President Bourguiba accused of “complicity with the French” by a deputy in search of publicity, suspensions of sitting, deputies who leave the hemicycle: consideration of a motion requesting the “official apologies of the French State crimes committed during the protectorate [NDLR : 1881-1956] and after »was rich in jolts, rears and other theatrical ricochets. It is the second time in a few days that the Assembly of People’s Representatives (ARP) has devoted a plenary to an abrasive subject, disconnected from the health and social situation in the country and the rest of the world. This morning, The Tunisian Press titled “When Chaos Reigns”. Another one-page article mentioned the “Parliamentary Coronavirus”.

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The crimes of colonization in the headlines

If public opinion regularly criticizes the absenteeism of its deputies, their endurance is no longer to be proven. From Tuesday to Wednesday, they will devote fifteen hours to this plenary. It will be necessary to wait 2 hours past the morning so that one passes to the vote of the motion deposited by Al Karama, fourth parliamentary block of the ARP with nineteen deputies. Its leader, lawyer Seifeddine Makhlouf, had tabled the text on May 12. “This is a motion that has no legal effect, it is not a law and, if it were passed, it would not be obliging either for the government or for the state”, specifies Selim Kharrat , politician and president of the NGO Al Bawsala (“the compass”), which scrutinizes parliamentary acts and texts. For him, “this motion is part of political politics, it allows Al Karama to pamper his base quite sensitive to populist speeches”. Especially since Foreign Affairs is part of the prerogatives of the President of the Republic, Kaïs Saïed. This party, which appeared in 2019, has an Islamist and populist DNA.

During the legislative campaign, Makhlouf had proposed to expel the French ambassador, Olivier Poivre d’Arvor. The diplomat would have gone from the magnificent residence of La Marsa to a one-way Tunisair to Paris. Extensive program. Tonight, the political maneuver succeeded beyond his expectations: 77 deputies voted in favor of this motion, more than triple his reserve of votes. Only five elected officials opted against, forty-six cautiously opting for abstention. Eighty-nine others preferred to stay at home. But the essential is not there: Al Karama monopolized the deputies for fifteen hours, each of its elected officials being dressed in the colors of the party, displaying on their desks photos of the victims of colonization. To complete the atmosphere, an independent deputy, a former member of Al Karama, deemed it useful to suggest that Habib Bourguiba was under the orders of the French. Effect guaranteed in particular to the PDL, the Free Destourian Party, led by Abir Moussi, ex-zealot of the Ben Ali dictatorship. Its sixteen deputies had placed before them a portrait of the ex-president for life. The PDL was the author of the previous motion which precipitated a plenary session on June 3.

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A breathtaking parliamentary system

Subject of the motion: “refusal by the Parliament of foreign interference in Libya and its opposition to the creation of a logistical base on Tunisian territory” as well as a dialogue on “parliamentary diplomacy in relation to the situation in Libya ” File which again falls under the prerogatives of the President of the Republic. This is a crucial issue for Tunisia, which has suffered since 2011 from the hidden war with its neighbor and important trading partner. Almost 800,000 Libyans took refuge in Tunisia that year. This motion, also without any legal value, did not obtain a majority. But the PDL like Al Karama yesterday proved that they were leading the way at Bardo. For Selim Kharrat, “it is a waste of precious time in these times of crisis and yet another attempt to divert opinion from the real angry subjects: the social and economic crisis”. The populists are engulfed in the flaws of the political system. “The institutional machine is rusty,” explains Kharrat, “its architecture provided for by the 2014 Constitution, which wanted to avoid power being monopolized by a single party, requires a good understanding between the three presidents, which is far from being the present case ”. He ends: “The three presidents are either in conflict or in defensive posture. »A boulevard for certain parties which surf on the mood of a part of the population. Thursday morning, there were only seven deputies present at the Committee on Health and Social Affairs. Agenda: consequences of the health crisis, governance of public enterprises.

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