Crackdown on Critics Opinion by Elias Batirtze
Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring and the first nation to overthrow its dictator in 2011, is currently facing a wave of arrests targeting politicians and critics of President Kais Saied. The recent crackdown has been deemed a blow to the country’s democracy, which has been built since the 2011 revolution.
The police have recently arrested two prominent opponents of President Saied, Noureddine Bhiri, a senior official in the largest opposition party Ennahda, and Noureddine Boutar, the head of the radio station Mosaique FM, which has frequently broadcasted criticism of the president. The police also arrested political activist and lawyer Lazhar Akremi, adding to the list of politicians and critics who have faced arrest since President Saied’s seizure of broad powers. The arrested individuals include a prominent business leader, a former finance minister, a former senior official from the Ennahda party, two judges, and a former diplomat.
Ennahda Islamist party condemned the arrests and called them “the kidnapping of Saied’s opponents.” The party stated that the expansion of the coup authority in harassing opposition figures, journalists, businessmen, and trade unionists is evidence of confusion and inability to face crises.
In July 2021, President Saied suddenly shut down parliament, dismissed the government, and moved to rule by decree. He then rewrote the constitution, moves that his critics have called a coup that pulled apart the democracy built after the 2011 revolution. President Saied has denied the coup and stated that his moves were legal and necessary to save Tunisia from chaos.
The recent crackdown on dissent marks a significant shift in the nation’s political landscape. State television, which had previously broadcast interviews with critics of the president, has largely stopped airing them. The arrests of President Saied’s opponents and the lack of comment from the police, Interior Ministry, or the Prime Minister’s office have raised questions about the state of democracy in Tunisia and the future of the nation’s political landscape.
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