If we had carefully analyzed the polls that have taken place in Tunisia since the Jasmine Revolution in 2011, we could have predicted the results of all the elections that have taken place all over the world in recent years. But we all considered, wrongly, that Tunisia was a democratic laboratory when it was only an illustration of what was to become of politics. We did not understand then that politics had lost its rationality and was no longer simply a matter of analyzes and quantified proposals. The emergence of social networks, the cradle both of information and of political fact, leads us to find, wedged between the vacation photos of a colleague and the first steps of the neighbour’s youngest child, the painful but necessary reform advocated by election candidates.
The end of politics
From now on, society is apprehended more by affect than by cold analysis. Qualified as a web 2.0 revolution, the Tunisian revolution relied on social networks. The whole world found it wonderful that the virtual could act on the real, without grasping the profound societal impact of this upheaval, which marked the end of politics – at least what was presented as such.
Tunisia: Islam, freedoms, presidential regime… What to remember from the draft new Constitution
Eyes converged on the moon proposed by the politicians, carefully avoiding turning to the finger of the people. But that finger was pointing elsewhere. History is not written in a linear way. Democracy, even if decreed, only exists because it is practiced. In this democratic transition, Tunisia does not escape either through or chimeras what this moment engenders.
These shortcomings are the loss of efficiency of governance when it is no longer the act of the Prince, but the fruit of consultations which must generate, at best a consensus, at worst a majority. These chimeras are those elected officials who, invested by the people through a vote, become the people but work for themselves. Since January 14, 2011, it is socially flattering to present oneself as a politician. Some believe that after the teacher, the imam, the doctor or the lawyer, the “knowledgeable” is now the politician. He knows what the people ignore; he understands what his aspirations must be, without even having to listen to them. Everyone thinks they are a fine politician, everyone is perceived as deceitful politicians.
Morality against project
Few have understood this dichotomy. In the summer of 2011, when the first free and democratic ballot in the history of Tunisia was organized to elect the representatives of the people responsible for drafting a Constitution, yesterday’s opponents became today’s politicians , present themselves as politicians. The Ennahdha party, that of Islam, which has understood the shift initiated by public opinion, presents itself to voters as the guarantor of good morals, and not as the bearer of a political project. The result is clear, Ennahdha comes out on top with 37.04% of the vote, far ahead of the second-ranked political party which won 8.71% of the vote. The Islamic bloc rules the country.
A man perceives this semantic shift in politics. He understands that it is not necessary to fight for a political project that everyone mistrusts, but to offer an alternative to religious positioning. This man is Béji Caïd Essebsi, who presents himself as Bourguiba’s heir. Same hairstyle, same rhetoric, same posture, he pushes mimicry to the point of wearing the same glasses. He contrasts his project – which draws its legitimacy from history – with that of the Islamists whom he presents as the representatives of an imported Islam. The positioning is a hit, Béji Caïd Essebsi is elected with more than 55% of the vote. His party, Nidaa Tounes, which brings together thanks to its members all political tendencies, comes first in the legislative elections with 37.56% of the vote, more than the Islamists in 2011. He campaigned on a simple slogan: the national interest is above parties. In this way, he too contributes to insinuating that the interest of the parties is opposed to the national interest.
Tunisia: how Kaïs Saïed took democracy hostage, by Marwane Ben Yahmed
Democracy sets in with great pomp, when the other, funeral pomp, bury politics. Tunisia becomes one of the first – if not the first country in the world – where the Islamists in power leave it through the ballot box. And religious succession is made through history. We handle concepts, it feeds the ballot box, but not the people. The third Tunisian election arrives, at the end of the summer of 2019, after the death, in power, of President Essebsi.
Driving his car
In 2017, Emmanuel Macron, who presents himself as an alternative to the left-right divide, is elected to the French presidency. A year earlier, it was Donald Trump, a Republican if ever there was one, who ascended to the White House in the United States by positioning himself… against the system established policy. In 2019, Jair Bolsonaro, in Brazil, is elected thanks to his nationalism which he opposes to the politicians whom he presents as corrupt men. Finally, the same year in Ukraine, it was an actor who became President of the Republic. Neither politician nor strategist, Volodymyr Zelensky holds the leading role in a successful Ukrainian series where he plays a teacher who has become a beloved and loving president. There was no need for more. The man creates a political party named after the series, sprinkles an anti-corruption, anti-elite discourse, and voila. The policies are knocked out, the comedian becomes president in April 2019.
Meanwhile in Tunisia, politicians who aspire to power continue to portray themselves as politicians. All but one: Kais Saied. He was elected on October 13, 2019 with 72.71% of the vote. Without a party, without a leaflet, without an apparent machine, without a rally and without a thundering campaign, the man calls himself outside the system, therefore on the side of the people. He’s so out of the system that the system doesn’t see him coming. He goes so far as to be absent from the lists of presidential candidates submitted to the polls. He shows himself surveying Tunisia at the wheel of his car, he explains that his only engine is that of popular aspirations – which he says he is the only one to listen to -, opposing this Tunisia of the parties, therefore of the corrupt, therefore of the elite, whose sole purpose is to confiscate what belongs to all.
He is the people
Ten years after the revolution, Tunisia has, for the moment, still not opted for politics. His choices fell on everything that cannot be identified as politicians. To drive the point home of sick politics, and to explain his coup of July 25, 2021, President Kaïs Saïed relied on what he presented as a political circus, and which had been taking place in Parliament since 2019. For justify the full powers, he showed, photos in support of the 8 p.m. newspaper, the jokes of the parliamentarians who sometimes tear each other apart, sometimes vociferate, always play politics, and therefore, he associates, do not work never for the people.
Tunisia – New Constitution: Islam or not?
The people are him, so he takes power. And, pistachio on the aassida, it will dissolve all the institutions which had an embryo of power. These same institutions, corrupt, he tells us, which nevertheless proclaimed him president. Exit the baby and the hammam water with it. A year later, when nothing has changed, when the economy is still moribund, when the precarious Tunisian is still a little more precarious, the president enjoys a confidence rating of more than 60%.
Why ? Because opposite, there are only politicians who continue to present themselves as such. When asked what political choice Tunisia has made, the answer is: none. Because democracy is sick of politics. In Tunisia as elsewhere. Except that in Tunisia, the political class has not always not understood.