Under a blazing Tunisian sun, cafe boss Radhi al-Chawich chatted amicably with customers when he let slip his support for the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party, the main opponent of President Kais Saied’s takeover.
All five immediately turn on him, telling him that he doesn’t know what he is talking about and that Ennahdha are all “hypocrites” and “liars”.
This is a widespread sentiment in the alleys of the old town of Tunis after 10 years during which Ennahdha maintained its position as the first Tunisian party but failed to secure a parliamentary majority, forcing it to compromise at times. unpleasant.
Most of those interviewed by AFP accuse the party of multiple crises in Tunisia, not the president whom he accuses of having organized a “coup”.
Last Sunday, Saied sacked Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspended parliament for 30 days. On Wednesday, he ordered a bribery crackdown on 460 businessmen for alleged embezzlement, alongside an investigation into the alleged illegal funding of political parties, including Ennahdha.
For supporters like Chawich, the cynicism about the party’s motives is a return to the dictatorship of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, toppled 10 years ago in the Arab Spring uprisings.
The 61-year-old said the party deserved more respect for its share of the vote in successive elections since his ouster.
“We are back in the days of the dictatorship. It is a recognized party which stood for election … That its mandate ends and then we will see in the elections. It is the ballot box that must decide. “
Chawich said he would continue to support Ennahdha until investigators prove the party had done something wrong.
“If it turns out that they stole and that they are doomed, then I will not vote for them anymore. “
– Fears of “Chaos” –
Chawich said he fears for the country’s future now that the stalemate between the president and the party has come to a head. “I don’t want this to slip into chaos. “
It is a fear also expressed by the international community, which does not wish to see the cradle of the Arab Spring fall back into authoritarianism or sink into violence.
But for the moment calm reigns in the streets of Tunis. After mobilizing a few hundred supporters for a sit-in in front of the closed Parliament on Monday, Ennahdha leader Rached Ghannouchi took a more cautious approach.
He called for a “national dialogue” and early legislative and presidential elections to resolve the deadlock that lasted for months between Saied and the legislature.
For political scientist Selim Kharrat, this is a pragmatic response that recognizes the party’s limits.
Ennahdha’s “failure to mobilize his base” for larger protests on Monday had tipped the balance of power in the president’s favor, he said.
“Ennahdha has always been ready to compromise because the party is obsessed with its own survival, haunted by the possibility of a new ban like the one imposed under the dictatorship of Ben Ali. “
For many ordinary Tunisians, it was these compromises that shattered their confidence in Ennahdha.
“I voted for their false promises,” said Ismael Mezir, 42. “They made a lot of promises, and in fact they were lies. “
The owner of clothing store Taoufic Ben Hmida says he still supports Ennahdha but understands the disillusionment of some voters.
“I love Ennahdha,” the 47-year-old told AFP.
“From the point of view of their program, of what they imagine and plan, they are right. Ennahdha could have done great things in Tunisia. But the problem is, they couldn’t cope with the obstacles that arose.
© 2021 AFP