On the footsteps of Tebboune, Tunisia’s Saied maintains opacity over his second term

On the footsteps of Tebboune, Tunisia’s Saied maintains opacity over his second term

Tunisia under Kais Saied is on the footsteps of Authoritarian Algeria. Mimicking Tebboune, Saied uses a rhetoric imbued with conspiracy theories, the threat of the foreign hand and opacity as he seeks a second term.

In a speech on the anniversary of the passing away of President Bourgiba, Saied launched a diatribe on the opposition saying – even before an electoral law was passed- that “we will not accept to go back to candidacies by groups that throw themselves into foreign arms.”

“Today, we are waging an existential war,” said the president in an irritated tone.

“Their goal is to undermine the Tunisian state and Tunisians have shown an unprecedented awareness in the face of a conspiracy in the making against them,” he said.

When asked if he would run for a second term, he alluded to giving a clear-cut answer saying “it is not about me, it is a matter of life or death!”

Leading a cash-strapped Tunisia facing a serious default risk, Saied found solace in populism, evoking conspiracy theories and the threat of instability. Between the lines he was telling Tunisians to choose between him or chaos.

As Tunisia braces for presidential elections in December 2024, a fog of repression looms over the country that was once the Arab Spring’s success story before it backpedaled to autocracy under a president intent on staying in power.

President Kais Saied destroyed the democracy ladder that brought him to power starting a gradual power grab that undermined checks and balances, while pursuing a ruthless oppression against critics and journalists.

In 2023, 30 journalists were arrested in Tunisia, according to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

“President Kais Saied’s latest wave of repression appears to be intricately linked to the upcoming presidential elections in Tunisia,” Marwa Murad, spokesperson of the Swiss human rights organization Committee for Justice, told DW.

Last week, Mohamed Boughalleb was the latest journalist to be jailed in the country for criticizing the ministry of religious affairs.

Many analysts see that in the absence of tangible economic gains, Kais Saied will resort to repression to maintain his power grab on the cash-strapped country.

The Algerian early elections in September and Tebboune’s quest for a second term will also embolden Saied to follow suit.

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