Kais Saied: the president of ‘RoboCop’ accused of launching the coup in Tunisia

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Kais Saied, the Tunisian president who plunged the country into a new political crisis, has always been a kind of political blank page.

Surprise winner of the 2019 elections, the coming to power of Saied, 63, a dry law professor with little political experience and no party to speak of, testified to the disillusionment of Tunisians with their country following the 2011 revolution that triggered the Arab Spring. .

But Saied’s point for many Tunisians, young people in particular, was precisely that. He was boring to the point of being the butt of jokes for his drowsy childbirth – he was nicknamed RoboCop.

It was not marred by Tunisia’s post-revolutionary policies and accusations of corruption. It seemed, at least two years ago, to be a sure pair of hands.

Succeeding Beji Caid Essebsi, who died in office, the scholar Saied interfered in an election dominated by the arrest and imprisonment of media mogul Nabil Karoui for allegations of corruption, which made headlines and used his TV channel to buff his image as a philanthropist.

Saied, who taught law at the University of Tunis, made no secret of his conservative beliefs – he is opposed to LGBTQ + rights – and presents himself as the anti-corruption and social justice candidate in a country where many had become disillusioned by the democratic post-dictatorship. political, especially that represented by Ennahda, the moderate Islamist political movement.

While Saied was elected to a post that had relatively little influence compared to the country’s divided parliament, he expressed his desire for a new constitution that would give the president more power.

This has resulted in a series of clashes over the past year between Saied and recent prime ministers as well as the speaker of parliament, Rachid Ghannouchi, the veteran of the leader of Ennahda who returned to Tunisia from exile in France in 2011 after the fall of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

Competition over who controls security forces and ministerial appointments has complicated the already messy response to the Covid-19 pandemic in Tunisia as well as popular discontent with Tunisia’s post-revolution economic situation in one country where the tourism industry has been hit hard by two major terrorist attacks targeting foreign visitors.

The political crisis linked to the coronavirus crisis came to a head last week when Saied ordered the military to take control of the health response after the dismissal of the Minister of Health and the botched management of walk-in vaccination centers -you. It culminated in popular protests against the government and Ennahda which resulted in the dismissal of the government by Saied, leading to accusations of coup by the Islamist party.

These fears were underscored by a televised statement from Saied warning that the armed forces “will respond with bullets” to “anyone who thinks of resorting to arms … and anyone who fires a bullet”.

Saied, who is considered a constitutional expert, said his actions were legitimate under the country’s constitution, arguing that Article 80 allows him to suspend parliament and suspend MPs’ immunity from “danger. imminent ”.

“A lot of people have been deceived by hypocrisy, betrayal and the theft of people’s rights,” he said.

Critics of Saied say he over-interpreted his constitutional powers, amid a long-standing dispute over the constitution and over appointments to the court that was supposed to clarify powers in the complex post-revolutionary political settlement of Tunisia.

“We are going through the most delicate moments in the history of Tunisia,” Saied said on Sunday.

Imed Ayadi, member of Ennahda, compared Saied to Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, who overthrew Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013 until the coup against the revolution, ”he said .

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