Po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity deep­en­ing in Tu­nisia over eco­nomic cri­sis

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page - YUSUF SEL­MAN İNANÇ – IS­TAN­BUL

WITH the trade deficit at a record level of 19.04 bil­lion di­nars in 2018, Tu­nisia has started to suf­fer from se­vere po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity. The dis­putes be­tween the main po­lit­i­cal par­ties, terror and in­se­cu­rity is­sues near the Libyan bor­der have al­ready pushed the coun­try into tur­moil.

TU­NISIA is the coun­try where the Arab Spring eu­phor­i­cally started, sweep­ing across the coun­try, lead­ing to con­flicts and deadly wars. While Libya, Syria and Ye­men con­tinue to suf­fer from civil wars with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of nu­mer­ous lo­cal, re­gional and in­ter­na­tional ac­tors, Tu­nisia has been able to avoid fall­ing into a con­flict and has been seen as a model for other Arab coun­tries where pol­i­tics and po­lit­i­cal tran­si­tions have been tu­mul­tuous. How­ever, with the econ­omy de­te­ri­o­rat­ing, this tiny coun­try has started suf­fer­ing from po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity.

Sev­eral ar­ti­cles in lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional me­dia claim that democ­racy in Tu­nisia is un­der threat since dis­putes be­tween the main po­lit­i­cal par­ties are deep­en­ing along with the present prob­lems, like terror and in­se­cu­rity near the Libyan bor­der. More im­por­tantly, the econ­omy has be­come its ma­jor prob­lem. In 2018, Tu­nisia’s trade deficit reached a record 19.04 bil­lion di­nars ($6.44 bil­lion), com­pared to 15.59 bil­lion di­nars in 2017 and 12.6 bil­lion di­nars in 2016 ac­cord­ing to data pub­lished by the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Sta­tis­tics. More­over, Tu­nisia's im­ports de­creased by 20% in 2018, com­pared to 19.8% in 2017, reach­ing a to­tal value of around 60 bil­lion di­nars, com­pared to around 50 bil­lion di­nars in 2017.

Eco­nomic prob­lems and dis­putes be­tween the coun­try’s main par­ties worsen the sit­u­a­tion. How­ever, due to other con­flicts that are nat­u­rally con­sid­ered more im­por­tant, like those in Libya, Ye­men or the lat­est one in Su­dan, Tu­nisia can­not find a place for it­self in the in­ter­na­tional area.

Tu­nisians voted in par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in 2014 with the sec­u­lar party Ni­daa Tounes win­ning af­ter gain­ing 85 seats in parliament, while the Is­lamist En­nahda Party gained 69 seats. The party, which has ties to the de­posed regime, gained more seats than the En­nahda Party, which had been rul­ing the coun­try since it gained 89 seats (40 per cent of the votes) in parliament in the 2011 elec­tions af­ter the re­moval of Pres­i­dent Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. In the pres­i­den­tial elec­tions the in­cum­bent pres­i­dent, Beji Caid Essebsi, won the pres­i­den­tial elec­tions against the En­nahda can­di­date.

Con­trary to other Arab coun­tries, the two par­ties some­how man­aged to get along de­spite an ev­i­dent divi­sion be­tween their views and ap­proaches to sev­eral is­sues. Still, their re­la­tions are good, but the prob­lem is with the rul­ing party, which has in­ter­nal prob­lems. Essebsi’s at­tempts to put his son and heirs into rul­ing roles have in­fu­ri­ated cer­tain Ni­daa mem­bers. En­nahda also sup­ported these Ni­daa mem­bers. Fol­low­ing these de­vel­op­ments, Essebsi started ac­cus­ing En­nahda of car­ry­ing out terror ac­tiv­i­ties or hav­ing links with terror groups. At this point, ru­mors of a mil­i­tary coup have started cir­cu­lat­ing.

The Gulf coun­tries, ex­cept Qatar, are dis­ap­pointed with the pres­ence of En­nahda as the party has his­tor­i­cal and ide­o­log­i­cal links with the Mus­lim Brother­hood, which is con­sid­ered a terror or­ga­ni­za­tion by Saudi Ara­bia and the United Arab Emi­rates (UAE). In case a coup is re­al­ized or third par­ties in­ter­vene, po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity and fur­ther eco­nomic de­cline may drag Tu­nisia into a chaotic sit­u­a­tion.

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