Prominent Opponents of Tunisian President Say They are Under Investigation

Prominent Opponents of Tunisian President say They are Under Investigation (News Central TV)
Tunisian President Kais Saied waves to Tunisian citizens as he delivers a speech during his visit to Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, Monday, Sept. 20, 2021. Tunisia’s president has announced plans to draft a new electoral code and appoint a transitional leadership and to hang on to the exceptional powers that he seized in July, throwing the country’s young democracy into question. (Slim Abid/Tunisian Presidency via AP)

Just days after the Tunisian leader announced an extension of the nation’s state of emergency and warned about a crackdown on those who attacked “symbols of the state,” three prominent opponents of Kais Saied revealed on Monday that they were under investigation.

Former ministers Nejib Chebbi and Ayachi Hammami, as well as lawmaker Reda Belhaj, who are the opposition’s spokespersons, claimed they received letters from prosecutors that they were under investigation for allegations of violating public security and insulting the president.

Saied’s spectacular power grab in July 2021 resulted in the suspension of Tunisia’s parliament and the exclusion of political parties. He pushed through a constitutional referendum earlier this year that established his one-man government.

The parliamentary elections in Tunisia last month were widely denounced as fraudulent by rights organisations and Saied’s political rivals. In an election typified by widespread disinterest and in which political parties were prohibited from participating, only 11% of eligible voters cast votes.

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Saied’s ability to retain power has been questioned in light of the record-low turnout. Following the vote, Tunisia’s largest opposition group, the Salvation Front, called for demonstrations and sit-ins, claiming that Saied had lost support and should resign due to the low attendance.

The head of the Salvation Front is Nejib Chebbi, one of the people being looked into. He described the investigation as “a farce” and politically motivated.

Nejib Chebbi

When Saied came to power, he positioned himself as an outsider who could break through the political and economic incompetence that followed the 2011 Arab Spring in Tunisia.

But the economic crisis in Tunisia has gotten worse. High inflation and shortages of basic goods like fuel and cooking oil are plaguing the nation, and the conflict in Ukraine has made the situation worse.

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Tunisia, which is battling debts that exceed 100% of its GDP, has had to turn to the IMF and is currently negotiating a $2 billion bailout with the lender of last resort.

The metro and bus system in Tunis’s capital city came to a complete stop on Monday as a result of a walkout by workers at state transportation company Transtu over the non-payment of wages and bonuses, underscoring the growing economic unhappiness of Tunisians.

The walkout was denounced by the transport ministry, which said that it “paralyzed transport across Greater Tunis… interfering with the operation of public services and the interests of the citizen.”

The IMF has demanded the implementation of a number of politically delicate measures as part of its bailout, including the progressive removal of subsidies on essential items and the restructuring of state businesses. The monopolies in water, energy, and cereals are among them, as is Transtu.

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The UGTT, which up until recently avoided criticizing Saied explicitly, has increased the volume of its opposition.

After the election last month, the union declared: “We no longer accept the existing path due to its vagueness and individual authority, as well as the nasty shocks it harbors for the survival of the country and democracy.


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