Ex-Tunisian president warns of ‘Arab volcano’ ahead of elections

Moncef Marzouki, Tunisia’s first president after the 2011 revolution, says he fears what may happen if he goes home.

In an interview with Al Jazeera ahead of Tunisia’s parliamentary elections on Saturday, Marzouki said the country’s current leader, Kais Saied, was part of a “counter-revolution” against the 2011 uprising and attempting to return to the pre-revolution political system, starting with the new constitution the president introduced after a July referendum.

 “Once again, (it is) the rule of one man, all the power gathered by one man,” Marzouki said. “And this is exactly what we didn’t want after the revolution. The will of one man has destroyed Iraq, has destroyed Syria, and has destroyed Libya.”

“This guy, he’s coming back to the old political system, and he will face the same problems faced by his predecessors, because one man cannot rule a nation.”

Saied is a populist figure who was elected as Tunisia’s president in 2019 on a platform that blamed the country’s economic woes on the political elite that had run Tunisia since 2011 – including people like Marzouki.

Since then, he has gradually entrenched himself in power. Prior to the new referendum, which changed the country’s system from a hybrid parliamentary one to a presidential system, he suspended and then dismissed parliament in July 2021, and opponents have accused him of returning what had been regarded as the Arab Spring’s main success story to a dictatorship, and cracking down on his opponents.

Marzouki explains Saied’s rise by arguing that more time was needed for the revolution to bear fruits, and that he had seized on the populace’s frustrations.

“Democracy cannot deliver immediately,” Marzouki said. “People are impatient because they have suffered for so long under the dictatorship … And then you have this kind of politician coming (and saying) ‘hey, look the democracy is not delivering anything, they are just talking, look at the corruption.’”

Not everyone agrees with Marzouki’s analysis.

Many in Tunisia, including Saied’s supporters, say Marzouki and other political figures who dominated the post-2011 years, such as RachidGhannouchi, the leader of Ennahdha, once the biggest party in parliament, failed, and that change was necessary.

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But Marzouki swats away those criticisms. While admitting to some mistakes – such as a lengthy three-year transition period where little was done to improve the economy – the former president said the main problems had resulted because of an anti-revolution attitude among “regional powers”. -AL JAZEERA

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