By announcing the dissolution of Parliament, eight months after having suspended it, the president assumes full powers. Did you expect this measure?
Aziz Krichen: President Kaïs Saïed’s decision to suspend Parliament on July 25 was bastard. There were two possible outcomes: either reconsider this decision, or go through with it. What he did on Wednesday March 30, following the virtual meeting during which 120 Tunisian deputies voted to cancel the exceptional measures he had decided on July 25. He used this pretext to go to the end of the personal power he wanted to put in place.
Beyond the event, the virtual meeting of deputies a few hours before was derisory. It gave the image of a political class that bickers, tears itself apart around issues strictly related to access to power. While the country is experiencing a terrible economic and social crisis.
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We have lost hundreds of thousands of jobs, a phenomenon that has increased with the Covid-19 pandemic. During this period, there were no government support measures for businesses and for jobs like elsewhere in Europe or the United States.
After the suspension of Parliament, the president showed his inconsistency, and the opposition stirred but was unable to exist politically. There was a little protest but the mobilization was weak.
What do you think the government should do?
AK: Tunisia depends on Russia and Ukraine for three quarters of its cereal imports and these essential questions for our country are totally absent from the political debate. In Tunisia, the former lands owned by French settlers have been nationalized by the state, but they are largely unproductive and corruption reigns. At the same time, in the countryside, there are landless peasants and unemployed young people.
Despite the crisis in Ukraine which is affecting our grain supplies, the State is not trying to develop these state lands, to bring together the land to be cultivated and the labor to restart agriculture.
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Moreover, the domestic market is flooded with clandestine imports of Chinese and Turkish products. We must break this mafia of importers and put an end to the monopoly of large families on important sectors of the economy. State sovereignty over the central bank must also be restored. Currently, it only acts as an intermediary between the IMF and the private banks. It no longer plays its role, which is to provide loans to the State to finance investments in the country.
Do you fear an authoritarian drift of the president and demonstrations in the country?
AK: The populism of the Head of State delays the challenge. The population expects something from him, but if it does not come, it will end up breaking out. We are in a surreal situation, with an absolute gap between the expectations of the country and the population and the functioning of the political class, opposition as parties in power.
Authoritarian drift is possible because the problems are not resolved. Discontent is growing, but the opposition does not benefit from it because it is largely discredited. The Islamist parties no longer weigh much. Instead, there is a risk of food riots.