Point-blank: On Egypt and Tunisia

Mohamed Salmawy
Wednesday 1 Jun 2022

Has Tunisia at last emerged from the dark tunnel of chaos to the light of stability? Tunisian President Kais Saied has recently formed an advisory committee to draw up a new constitution to establish what he termed “the new republic”.


According to his roadmap, the committee will submit the draft to him on 20 June and a referendum will be held on it on 25 July. Tunisia is thus emulating the course Egypt took after the Muslim Brotherhood rode the crest of anarchy to assume power in Egypt, just as the Ennahda Party did in Tunisia.

Also, just as the Muslim Brotherhood stalled the realisation of the new order to which the Egyptian revolution had aspired, so too did the empowered Ennahda engender a state of anarchy that lasted more than a decade. 

Yet, whereas Egyptians rose up after only a year of the Muslim Brotherhood regime and asked the army to step in to end rule by the Supreme Guide, Tunisia continued to flounder in an endless cycle of political conflicts between civil forces pressing for modern democratic government and Islamists aspiring to a monopoly on power. The result was political and institutional paralysis causing unprecedented economic deterioration. Unemployment rose to 19 per cent. The poverty rate climbed to 15 per cent nationwide and to over 40 per cent in some governorates.

According to the  Institut arabe des chefs d’entreprises (IACE), more than 300 foreign businesses and branches closed down and left the country. Then Covid-19 struck, costing the Tunisian economy more than eight billion Tunisian dinars ($2.75 billion), according to the Tunisian National Institute of Statistics. In light of the gravity of this decade-long crisis, President Saied took several extraordinary steps. He dissolved the parliament, dismissed the government and dissolved the High Judicial Council. More recently, he appointed a new electoral commission before forming the above-mentioned constitutional drafting committee. As he explained at the time, his aim is “to rescue and change Tunisia after a decade of ruin.” 

How similar yet how different Tunisia’s experience has been compared to that of Egypt, which surpassed all those problems years ago, enabling it to march boldly and rapidly towards reconstruction and comprehensive development.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 2 June, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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