Since the publication of the draft Constitution, on June 30, and of adjustments, on July 8, the critical discussions around this text have been going well. One could almost believe that the debate around public affairs is now an inalienable asset for Tunisians, but this would be an erroneous approach concerning a population under the influence of social networks and undergoing the dictatorship of algorithms with astonishing docility.
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The process is almost childish: you dump your opinion on Facebook, you empty your bag, you unload as if there was an urgency to prepare for the next game where you would cross words as you would iron. But in any case, the adversary is ultimately invisible: the elites, the opinion leaders who have suffered, since 2020, a first exclusion from the public scene with the Covid then a second, in 2021, with the offensive on the power of the President of the Republic, Kais Saïed, who suffers no questioning and goes it alone.
Made of prince
The elite, since it is about it, although still praised and given as an example for its dynamism, seems to no longer find its place and to be losing its bearings; in response, it locks itself into a sort of reassuring self-esteem. “A ghetto”, launches a young opinionist who struggles to be heard in a Tunisian intelligentsia which, for lack of renewal or for lack of recruiting and rejuvenating its ranks, has entered into recession.
Lawyers and the most eminent academics have illustrated this phenomenon since the publication of the draft fundamental law. They brought most of the insights and criticisms on the text and the threats it contains with an exacerbated, even messianic supra-presidentialism, without any control over the president, a State in charge of achieving the objectives of Islam, a very limited reference to democracy and none to the civil nature of the state. Enough to arouse an outcry, quickly circumscribed since the media, public and private, only gave the floor to the detractors of the Constitution with extreme parsimony, just enough to put on a good face without upsetting Carthage, which would like, through a holistic approach, politics, in particular, to be the work of the prince.
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Nevertheless, the elite no longer makes much noise. She was more expressive and restless, even under the Ben Ali regime. She seems to be recovering with difficulty from the shock of the revolution which froze her in a kind of stupefaction to the point that she was not very productive before being brought to her knees by the political wanderings of the last decade. It would have liked to play a role, to impose a leadership in terms of ideas and thought, but was deprived of room for maneuver or victim of attempts by the parties to take it over.
Few give the voice
This elite, today, becomes fearful, almost restive, and expresses itself in cenacles on the occasion of conferences or other meetings intended for an audience of specialists. But few are those who give voice, who dare. “Even the critical reading of the Constitution over three days at the Faculty of Law in Tunis only really focused on questions of identity and obscured the essentials, namely the economic aspect of a Constitution which is first and foremost above all a social pact”, comments a teacher who does not want trouble, but who wonders with false naivety about the interest of debating between colleagues on the same side.
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Some Tunisians are nostalgic for the tough television debates, buzz and a much more active and mobilized elite, as in 2013 for the rahil sit-in, which enabled the street to put an end to Islamist governance, to accelerate the work of the constituent assembly and to impose a transitional government. “It’s not that old and it seems like another life,” said Ali Maamer, a union coordinator for the health federation.
A Tunisia without an elite is disturbing, but few are those who diagnose a paradoxical situation for a country in perpetual political effervescence. In a publication of July 18, the sociologist and former politician Aziz Krichen provides an analysis that sheds light on the position of the elite and that of the social mass so that they meet and recognize each other: “The fight will have to continue by correcting what has seriously handicapped it so far: the gap separating the political struggle of the “elites” from the social struggle of the “masses”, the first remaining without popular depth, the second remaining without national representation at the level of the “elites” political and civic. This division weakens everyone, whereas the enemy is common and strikes each other without distinction. »