There have been dozens of comments about the failure of the revolutions taking place in the Arab world. The Islamic movement has always been shown as the “architects of failure”, especially the processes in Tunisia and Egypt. Even when the revolution was achieved, articles were written that the contribution of Islamic movements was at best much later. Even the 'ground for legitimizing military coups' was presented as the failure of Islamic movements or parties. Therefore, Islamic movements and parties were accused of undermining the democratization process by the coup plotters and their supporters. Nahda was also held responsible for the assassination of Brahimi and Belayid, which occurred in Tunisia. So much so that when Nahda lost the elections in 2014, articles were written in columns when the real democratization had just begun. There was only one reason for all these approaches: the Islamic movement and democracy could not be Deconstructed together. Seculars believed that the concept of democracy was a secular concept, suggesting that its savings were based on themselves, that is, on monopoly. We should say at the very beginning that Ghannouchi's struggle - at least on the sociopolitical level - is actually ongoing by trying to break these taboos. Ghannouchi, in his work “Public Freedoms in the Islamic State” written in 1993, mentions the establishment of a multi-party system among the guarantees for eliminating possible persecution in the Islamic state Decrying the importance of democracy as follows:
"... pluralism is not a bad thing. On the contrary, it should be. This system is necessary in order to prevent domination from invading the environment, to create a certain balance between the governed and the governed Decrees.” (p.388-389)
“As for the content of the democratic regime, it is a confession of the value of man. Thanks to this, a person guarantees his honor and the right to actively participate in administrative affairs in the public sphere. He can only gain power over those who rule by this means, that is, by the means of pressure he has obtained and by his influence on the future. In this way, he will be sure of istibdat and cruelty.” (p.113)
From Political Islam to Muslim Democracy
This struggle of Ghannouchi was the 10th anniversary of Nahda in the summer of 2016. Along with the transition process from “Political Islam to Muslim Democracy” announced at the Ordinary Congress, a new perspective has developed, including restructuring in Islamic movements. In summary, this transformation process, which recommends the separation of political activities and religious/cultural activities within the movement, explains the need for a more special concentration on many political teachings and processes, especially the democratization of the movement.
Although the transition from ”Political Islam to Muslim Democracy" is an important process in terms of the socialization of politics and democratic political participation, the generalized approach made by opposing political elements hinders the democratization process. Of course, this process that Ghannouchi has built cannot be described as an attempt to convince the seculars. But, so to speak, this process served as a litmus test for the seculars. The main reason why the secular section considers Nahda as a total religious structure that tries to replace the rules of religion is actually not only that it does not attribute democracy to Nahda, but that the secular section appropriates democracy for itself. This secularist mind, which defines democracy as the other side of religion, will certainly not tolerate elements that remind of religion in a democratic system. On the other hand, the movement's emphasis that democracy belongs to the people every time and that the party will fight for the democratization process distinguishes them from the secularists' approach to democracy. In this sense, we see that the Nahda Movement in particular, Islamic movements in general can internalize democracy more than secular movements. In this context, a lot of evidence can be presented, from the works Ghannouchi wrote many years ago to his statements so far.
Imported Thought from the West
In fact, it should be said that this approach of the Tunisian seculars is not an indigenous approach. The idea that the Islamic movement cannot be identified with democracy has been imported from the West. The organic connection established by the secular intellectual class in Tunisia with the West, especially France, has caused it to embody a kind of orientalist approach in its thoughts. This situation, conceptualized by the Iranian thinker Daryus Shayegan as ‘wounded consciousness’, has caused an irreparable relationship between the secular intellectual class and the Tunisian people, whose cultural codes are identified with Islam, even though there were significant Decadence during the French colonial period. Thus, the secular intellectual class has distanced itself from the people and their demands. More importantly, this intellectual class has moved beyond adopting Western discourses and methods to a position that serves the interests of the West. For this reason, it is necessary to emphasize the undeniable influence of Western powers in the democratization processes in Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan and other parts of the Middle East. Secular intellectual classes have become one of the new means of exploitation of Western powers in the postcolonial processes. As (former French President) General Charles de Gaulle said, I will not start a dictatorship at this age, I can only be within the rule of law and its institutions,“ Kays Said told reporters before the African-European Summit held in the Belgian capital Brussels, using the expressions that he actually sided with the exploitation mentality. Therefore, it is necessary to read about the chief architect of the process that has been taking place in Tunisia recently, pushing the country to become undemocratic, Qays Said and his team in this context.
Kays Said's Appearance on the Political Scene
Weber states that charismatic leaders are due to their personal abilities or an extraordinary value attributed to them, and these leaders appear especially in moments of crisis. As long as the charismatic leader does not give space to the initiatives that build his charisma and does not meet the necessary expectations, he may start to become routine or even authoritarian with the worry of losing his status along with his charisma.
October September 15, 2019 Dec held elections in Tunisia, failed to determine a candidate in the first round, the second round (October 13, 2019) was held between Qays Said and Nabil el-Karvi. When Nahda's candidate Abdulfettah Muru failed to qualify for the second round in the first round, Nahda turned to Qays Said, who she felt close to. Said became president by winning the elections with a high percentage of 72.71% with the support of Nahda. As it is known, after the Tunisian revolution of 2011, the movements on the streets and squares did not stop completely, but continued at least a little. These protests, which focused mostly on economic problems, were the governments' most fearful dream. Because small protests could turn violent in an instant. This situation was a harbinger of the formation of a culture of dissent in Tunisia. But these masses often hoped that a magic wand would appear and eliminate the existing problems. Often the antecedents were hardly taken into account. The state structure, which has been the balance of dictatorial regimes for many years, wants to be restored to a democratic structure in a short period of time, a long-term transformation was not expected.
- Every political process that is tried to be built with undemocratic methods undermines the democratization adventure of the country and undermines the people's faith in this direction.
Tunisia had actually made significant progress in terms of democratization in ten years. However, the July 25 decisions taken by Qays Said in the tenth year of the revolution undermined this process. After his statement stating that the country was in a state of emergency, Qays Said stopped the powers of the parliament, lifted the parliamentary immunities and dismissed Prime Minister Hisham al-Meshishi. The next day, many members of parliament, especially Rashid Ghannouchi, who is the Speaker of the Parliament, rejected the decision, and a protest was organized in front of the parliament with the participation of many names. This action later became massed and moved to the squares. Apart from protesters and security forces, there were also groups supporting the decision taken by Qays Said in the squares. With the situation getting worse, Qays Said took full executive power into his hands on September 22. In the time leading up to Ghannouchi's arrest today, Qays Said signed many extraordinary, authoritarian decisions, from the dissolution of parliament to the arrest of political actors, from the change of the election board to the dismissal of judges, from the referendum on the transition to a presidential system equipped with strong powers and unchecked, to the attempt to draft a new constitution, from the closure of the party to the collection of judicial power itself. Under the leadership of Nahda, a civil organization called the Citizens‘ Initiative Against the Coup d'état, which stands against all these decisions and practices, was formed. The turnout was quite low with 30% in the referendum and 11% in the early elections. The elections were boycotted by all political parties except the supporters of Qays Said. Thus, Tunisia has experienced painfully how a charismatic leader has become authoritarian.
The sustainability of this authoritarian and even anti-democratic approach of Kays Said towards the people and those elected by the people, which can be called a coup, is quite difficult. After this process, it is inevitable that Qays Said will be among the worst Presidents in the history of Tunisia's democratization Dec. The most problematic point of monopolizing democracy and adopting it as a phenomenon belonging only to its own class is the legitimization of these undemocratic processes. At this point, there are also sections that support Qays Said. In addition to the support given to Qays Said by the Popular Movement, the National Tunisian Youth Party, the Voice of the Republic Party and the Alliance Party for Tunisia in the Parliament, it is observed that Italy and France, which are the primary addressees of this migration wave, support Said, who has taken tough decisions to stop the migration wave, especially to Europe. Every political process that is tried to be built with undemocratic methods undermines the democratization adventure of the country and undermines the people's faith in this direction. The Tunisian people, who do not want to lose the gains of the revolution, never deserve such a form of power.
- Ghannouchi's detention could lead to the death penalty on various charges.
One of the biggest trump cards of Qays Said's authoritarian rule was the attempts to arrest dissident voices in order to suppress them. During this process, Abdulhamit-al-Jalasi, one of the leaders of the Nahda Movement, Khiyam al-Turki, one of the leaders of the Democratic Front Party, Nurettin al-Bahiri, Nahda Party Deputy, Fethi Kemmun, Nahda Party Office Manager, Isam ash-Shaabi, Secretary General of the Republican Party, journalist Nureddin Butar, businessman Kemal Latif, National Salvation Front members Sheyma Issa and Jawher bin Mubarak, former Secretary General of the Democratic Current Party Gazi ash-Shawashi and finally Nahda Movement leader Rashid Ghannouchi, “conspiring against the security of the state”, he was arrested on many charges such as ”steps aimed at fueling the economic crisis". Ghannouchi's detention may go up to the death penalty on charges of ”inciting civil war". During this process, there were harsh reactions to Qays Said from other opposition parties and many messages of support for Ghannouchi. The National Liberation Front was established as an important initiative against Qays Said. On this front, the Nahda Party led by the speaker of the defunct parliament Rashid al-Ghannouchi, the Heart of Tunisia Movement led by Nabil al-Qurawi, the Honor Coalition headed by Saifeddin al-Mahluf, the Tunisian Will Movement led by former President Munsif al-Marzouki and the Emel Party took part. Condemnation messages and concerns were conveyed by many non-governmental organizations, especially the United Nations, as well as many countries, especially Turkey and Germany, following the latest situation in the country and especially Ghannouchi's arrest. But it seems that such warnings are insufficient, because Qays Said has not yet backed down. That is why factual sanctions should be taken against Qays Said.
Ghannouchi's Democratic Struggle
Ghannouchi has been fighting for a more prosperous Tunisia for fifty years as the founder and maintainer of an important indigenous movement, in contrast to Qays Said, which is now clear as day that it serves the interests of the West. These methods are not new for Ghannouchi, who has been detained many times in the recent period and was finally arrested after being detained during Iftar on the evening of Ramadan (April 17, 2023). The leader of the Nahda Movement, Ghannouchi, who spent many years of his life in prison and exile, fought for the democratization of Tunisia by constantly compromising himself and his movement after the revolution. January February 19, 2013 and then Prime Minister Ali al-Ariyd, who belonged to the Nahda Movement, in addition to the coalition culture formed after the revolution, resigned on January 29, 2014, and the 10th, which took place in the summer of 2016. Steps such as the “Transition from Political Islam to Muslim Democracy” program in the Congress can be described as important breakthroughs of the Nahda Movement in the democratization process.
All these processes show that the secularist mentality represented by Qays Said in Tunisia ignores the representation of Muslims. In such authoritarian structures, elections and democratic processes serve as a litmus test for seculars. While the secularist mentality possessed by Qays Said and his supporters adopted the discourses and tools of the West and put pressure on the other with it, on the contrary, the Nahda Movement adopted discourses and tools that take into account the values and interests of indigenous and all segments of society.
Western intervention is inevitable in Tunisia, which has become authoritarian, has lost its legitimacy, does not respect representation, and as a result of which socio-economic and political instability has occurred. Western powers, looking for opportunities at such times, make efforts to redesign the country in accordance with their own interests, without taking into account the values and interests of society. In the case of Tunisia, many Western powers, especially France, can use secularist structures as a tool for their ambitions. In particular, it is necessary to know that the place where France, which was previously a colonial power, stood is not on the side of Tunisian society.
As a result, the process that Tunisia has experienced in recent months is the struggle for the ‘foundation of democracy’ maintained by the seculars with the Islamists. In other words, the secularists in Tunisia, and especially Qays Said and his team, believe that the democratization process cannot be operated by Islamists, conservatives or Muslim democrats. In this sense, the process of antidemocratization is being operated in Tunisia by secularists such as Qays Said. As it is known, democracy does not only mean that one should be replaced by the other. This is a process, and the most important element of this process is social representation. A top-down and dictatorial management approach that does not take into account the values and demands of society, does not develop policies for society, considers power only as a decision-making ability in the form of ‘I did it, it happened’ is the most important obstacle to the democratization process.
The undemocratic decisions taken by Qays Said, especially the arrest of Parliament Speaker and Nahda Movement Leader Rashid Ghannouchi and his trial on charges that could lead to death, remain the biggest problem facing Tunisia's democratization process. If the front is not taken, it is understood from the authoritarian management process of Kays Said that these decisions are the forerunners of tougher decisions to be taken in the coming processes. Although Said, who also connects the executive and judicial powers to his own power, tries to legitimize these processes, it is obvious that most of the country does not accept these decisions and authoritarian rule, except for the supporters of Qays Said, who have very little representation. This broad section that opposes Qays Said has not given up on civil and democratic methods.
It should be noted that Ghannouchi's rhetoric and practices have an important role in the democratic conduct of the opposition. As Kays Said, which represents a secularist mentality, becomes authoritarian, Ghannouchi, who cares about democratization, national dialogue and social representation, will cling more tightly to democratic tools. Moreover, there are some discussions going on among the supporters of Qays Said, especially between the left and center parties. Dec. In such a structure, an early election seems inevitable. But in order for the process to reach this point, serious sanctions must be applied to Qays Said at both the national and international levels. Otherwise, Qays Said will cause the gains of the revolution to be wasted and he will become a Zayn al-Abidin ben Ali.
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