Brussels (Brussels Morning) French President Emmanuel Macron expressed support to Tunisian President Kais Saied in a telephone call this weekend, emphasising that Paris hopes the ongoing political crisis in Tunisia will soon end with a return to normalcy.
Tunisia was plunged into a political crisis late last month as President Saied invoked emergency powers to oust the democratically-elected Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and his government, suspending the parliament for a period of one month, and revoking the parliamentary deputies’ immunity from prosecution.
Saied cited the country’s constitution in claiming he had the authority to take extraordinary action in case of an imminent threat to the country, despite the fact that none of the actions he took are specifically mentioned in the constitution. An additional point of contention is that the country has not yet established a constitutional court, which would be in a position to rule on whether the President’s activation of emergency powers is warranted.
His opponents, including the ruling Islamist party Ennahda, have accused him of engaging in an illegal coup with the aid of the country’s military. The party, which has remained in power in the nascent democracy ever since the 2011 Arab Spring revolution, is not without its share of controversy and allegations of corruption.
Saied, an independent elected in 2019 on a platform of fighting against corruption and entrenched political elites, claimed last week that 460 businessmen were involved in embezzling state funds. He offered them clemency if they returned the missing 4.8 billion dollars in the form of funding government projects.
Taking the position of the country’s chief prosecutor, Saied also arrested independent deputy Yassine Ayari last week, who branded the President’s power move as a coup. The arrest was met with widespread condemnation by global rights organisations, including Amnesty International and Global Rights Watch.
Talking to Saied on Saturday, Macron said France was “anxious to see Tunisia swiftly return” to a situation in which it could respond to the economic and health problems it is facing. Before Saied ousted the government, citizens were rising up in protest against the Mechichi cabinet for its perceived mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, and the rapidly deteriorating economy.