Tunisia erupts into political turmoil

Risk managers will be watching with mounting concern as Tunisia’s President has dismissed the Prime Minister, suspended parliament and declared a curfew.

Tunisia was the seat of the Arab Spring in 2011 and had been considered a success story since, but tensions have been climbing in the wake of Covid-19-induced economic turmoil.

Joel Gulhane, intelligence operations manager at security intelligence firm Dragonfly, warned of continuing protest on Tunisian streets and that western allies will be anxiously watching the President’s next move.

“Despite the imposition of a nationwide curfew, we anticipate large and disruptive protests and rallies in Tunisia both for and against President Kais Saied in the coming weeks. For now at least, any violence is likely to be contained to scuffles between rival supporters as well as police using tear gas to disperse crowds. The authorities will probably use a night-time curfew, in place until the end of August, to justify the use of force against protesters,” he said.

“The ramifications of the country’s political crisis are far from clear,” Mr Gulhane continued. “Tunisian political parties are split over President Saied’s decision to sack the country’s Prime Minister. President Saied said he will govern alongside a new Prime Minister, indicating that he will be more involved in day-to-day political decisions since he was elected in October 2019. He has expanded his powers significantly in the last 24 hours, sacking ministers, suspending parliament for 30 days and abolishing immunity for MPs, having previously criticised such immunity as a barrier to accountability.

“Western allies will watch the developments closely in the coming days and weeks. Many – such as the UK and EU – will focus on working together, leveraging the severe Covid-19 outbreak in Tunisia to emphasise their message. The US secretary of state Antony Blinken has already spoken to President Saeid, urging open dialogue and collaboration between political stakeholders in the country. Tunisia’s reputation on the international scene will largely depend on the direction that President Saied takes. If he looks to fully centralise power in an authoritarian manner, then we may see a more robust response from the EU, the UK and the US.”

Back to top button