Enab Baladi – Amal Rantissi
A year ago, Tunisian President Kais Saied began a series of moves in which he sought to monopolize power by expanding his executive and legislative powers, raising fears of the regime’s return to dictatorship after 11 years of rule. the first Arab Spring revolution in Tunisia.
On any occasion since July 25, 2021, Saied has used to describe his opponents as traitors and agents, saying that “those who fear dictatorship are the same who ‘commit misdeeds on earth, doing misdeeds’, in connotation with a verse from the Holy Quran, according to what he said in a speech broadcast on July 8 at the Eid al-Adha holiday.
Saied’s terms belong to the same dictionary of the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad, in his argument against the revolution and its opponents, describing as “scum, agents of the West and traitors”.
Saied met the Syrian regime’s foreign minister Faisal Mekdad as the couple celebrated the 60 anniversary of Algeria’s independence on July 4, the official news agency (SANA) revealed nearly two years ago. weeks.
Saied asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs to to transmit his greetings to al-Assad, and compared Syrian and Tunisian “achievements” to each other, stating that the “brotherly” countries share “common goals”, according to Syrian officials.
Enab Baladi addresses in this report the most important political changes that occurred in the relations between Tunisia and the Syrian regime during Saied’s mandate, and the interest of the two countries for a possible rapprochement, in addition to internal and international factors and available approaches .
Common background, ideology
Saied called the measures he took on July 25, 2021, “exceptional measures” which follow a political and economic crisis triggered by the health crisis and the high number of deaths due to the Covid-19 pandemic, even if some Tunisian parties describe the “measures” as a “cut.”
At the time, the regime’s foreign ministry expressed support for Saied, saying, “Syria insists on the right of peoples to self-determination, and the legitimate state in Tunisia and the Tunisian people are capable of move towards a future decided by the Tunisians themselves,” adding that what happened in Tunisia is “in the framework of the constitution that the Tunisian people voted for”.
Tunisia went through a series of serious political turmoil following exceptional measures that Saied began to impose, including the dissolution of parliament, the abolition of the constitutionality control body, the promulgation of laws by presidential decrees and the dissolution of the Superior Council of the Judiciary.
But the main hinge is the submission by Saied of a new draft constitution to a popular referendum which understand 142 articles granting broad powers to the President of the Republic, unlike the 2014 constitution which provided for a quasi-parliamentary system, as the first draft was describe as “paving the way for a shameful dictatorial regime”.
Many local and international non-governmental organizations believe that the Tunisian president is alone in power and violates the principles for which the 2011 revolution took place.
Human rights organizationsincluding Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have denounced Saied’s decisions and his approach to political parties.
Regarding Saied’s approach to the Syrian regime, Omran Center for Strategic Studies political scientist Maan Talaa believes that there is a common belief between the two sides in the narrative of ” confront the forces of darkness”, which are the forces that seek to strengthen democracy.
But for these regimes, local political interactions are classified between two options, either “terrorist” or “pro-regime”, that is to say, they reflect the duality of tyranny which imposes force or a police state in exchange for liberation and thus heading towards chaos, according to Talaa.
The researcher added that this goes in the direction of bringing closer and strengthening the narrative of the Tunisian regime in the series of measures it has taken, particularly with regard to the constitution, which ultimately led to the strengthening of the “one man” power or the dictatorial and authoritarian state in which one person tyrannizes over all local authorities.
The other factor is linked to the state of “nationalist partisanship”, which finds a tendency that meets in Damascus with speeches against what is called “imperialism” and others which is due to the need to have political propaganda which constitutes a lever for authoritarian regime, and here the “nationalist” factor is a common factor for a common discourse and propaganda between the Syrian regime and the Tunisian president.
Interest of the regime for a rapprochement with Tunisia
The Syrian regime seeks to return to the Arab incubator after 11 years through declared and undeclared normalization with a number of Arab countries, where some Arab countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain and the Algeria evolved towards relations and a re-recognition of the Syrian regime, while the position of some Arab countries was limited to not purifying a clear support for the regime, and was limited to small diplomatic representations or some commercial exchanges, to in light of the European and American sanctions imposed on it.
In an interview with the Kremlin-run RT channel on June 9, al-Assad expressed his political compassion for Arabs in general and Algeria in particular, denying the presence of political grudges against Arab countries and considering that what happened in Syria “has become a thing of the past”, noting that relations between Syria and Arab countries have not changed in substance, but only in form.
Al-Assad also stressed the importance that Algeria attaches to the upcoming Arab summit, believing that the only weight of this summit is that it will be held in Algeria, praising the stability of relations with Algeria since the seventies of the last century.
Regarding the regime’s interest in a possible rapprochement with Tunisia, political scientist Maan Talaa does not believe that this will make a big difference because the question of normalization with the Syrian regime is not linked to the search for its external legitimacy only because this legitimacy, in the end, is linked to an American and European veto, which so far limits any step of normalization to narrow political approaches.
The reading of the common interests between Syria and any country is now part of a deeper perspective than that of diplomatic training, representation or recognition, and what the Syrian regime needs now is is to lift sanctions and lift red lines on reconstruction, and therefore lift sanctions and engage more with the international community in the face of post-war challenges, Talaa says.
He added that this helps the regime to overcome the internal crisis, but all attempts at diplomatic representation remain in formal frameworks if they are not accompanied by a trade and economic development movement.
Russia, a common factor
Russia is a common factor between the key ally, the Syrian regime, and most of the countries that support it. At the level of the Maghreb countries, Algeria is known as Russia’s “strategic and historical ally”. This too vote with the Syrian regime against the decision to suspend Russia’s membership of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
In April, Tunisia’s ambassador to Moscow, Tarek Ben Salam, told Russian news agency Sputnik: “We are now working to get the Tunisian president to visit Russia as soon as possible.” The new Arabic reports the newspaper.
But the planned visit was later denied by Tunisia’s ambassador to Congo, Adel Bouzekri Rmili, who tweeted on his official account on April 28, “I just checked with my colleague in Russia, and he told me that was not true! He just said he intended to develop bilateral relations through “high-level visits” while stressing the importance of training the first astronaut.
He also said that “Russia remains a historical partner of Tunisia in several areas, and it is natural for the ambassador to hope for the development of Tunisian-Russian relations, and it is indeed his duty to work there. “.
According The new Arabic“A number of activists from umbrella groups supporting the Tunisian president have defended the news of the announcement of the visit, believing it will strike new balances for Tunisia’s benefit as it heads east for strengthen its relations with Russia, which would put an end to a series of Western warnings criticizing the political path approved by Saied in Tunisia”, especially after the American administration critical Saied for his takeover.
May 11, al-Quds al-Arabi The newspaper published photos showing Saied supporters at rallies, carrying Russian flags and portraits of al-Assad.
Analyst Talaa said Enab Baladi that the Tunisian approach is part of the axis management policy, especially since the forces that support or are allied to Russia aspire with their imagination to achieve the formation of an eastern axis that balances the western axis and brings thus the regional political scene at the Cold World War stage.
Saied’s announced visit could manage the balance in Tunisia’s relations with international powers, especially since the stability or reconfiguration of the international system is now linked to the Russian war against Ukraine, its repercussions and its consequences.
“That’s why this approach from Moscow gives Tunisia multiple options, not just options related to countries in the region or the US and the EU,” Talaa says.
The major message of all these initiatives by the Tunisian president is to build a system for an authoritarian state in which the president controls the keys to local authority and maximizes his legislative, judicial and security powers, according to the researcher.
In the end, this increases his chances of staying in power by narrowing the spaces for action of the forces that oppose him inside Tunisia, and he has an example in the Egyptian model, and the Syrian model is a another example, adds Talaa.
Generally speaking, Tunisia’s move towards the Syrian regime is not a feasible path in the foreseeable future, which is reflected in the feasibility and effectiveness of the Syrian regime itself as it relates to issues of rebirth internal regime, according to Talaa.
These issues are linked to US and European sanctions that prevent the regime from responding to post-war crises and the continued deterioration of economic and local development, and this constitutes an obstacle in the reconfiguration of the internal structure of the Syrian regime and its networks again, and thus continuing the idea of a failed state, he concluded.