Investigations into assassination attempt on Tunisian president point to Ennahda party

Tunisian President Kais Saied is reportedly the target of an assassination attempt by the Islamist party
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AFP/ FETHI BELAID  -   Tunisian President Kais Saied

The Tunisian judicial authorities have announced the opening of an investigation into an alleged assassination attempt on Tunisian President Kais Saied.

In this regard, the Ministry of Justice added in a statement that in accordance with what was raised last Tuesday and what is circulating about the assassination attempt on the President of the Republic, "the acting Minister of Justice, Hasna Ben Suleiman, authorised the General Prosecutor's Office to carry out the necessary investigations into the matter and to carry out the necessary follow-ups in this regard". 

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AFP/ FETHI BELAID - Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi during a press conference.

Last January, Saied reportedly suffered "a poisoning attempt" through a letter allegedly containing ricin, a lethal substance that has been used by Islamic terrorist groups. The letter was allegedly opened by his main aide, Nadia Akacha, who reportedly fell ill after suffering severe bouts of blindness. The letter was sent for analysis by a special service of the Interior Ministry, they said in a statement.

Initial investigations are allegedly accusing the Brotherhood's Ennahda movement, Tunisia's main parliamentary force and the government's current partner. Last February, tens of thousands of supporters of the Islamist party took to the streets to demonstrate in support of Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, an opponent of President Kais Saied. The protests have further intensified tensions between the two figures already at loggerheads over the president's refusal to reshuffle the government.

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PHOTO/REUTERS - Rached Ghannouchi, the leader of the Islamist Ennahda party.

Clashes between the two politicians have continued over the months. Last January, Mechichi won support for dismissing the ministers of environment and culture, as well as justice and energy, along with 25 other portfolios in order to create a "more effective" cabinet. However, President Saied rejected it on the grounds that he had not been consulted beforehand and that five of the new ministries were allegedly implicated in corruption cases.

Saied came to power in 2019 and has since been accused of laying the groundwork for a "soft coup" in Tunisia. The legislative elections resulted in a fragmented and complicated parliament divided between a dozen parties and some twenty independents. The Islamist Ennahda party currently holds 52 seats out of 217 in parliament. This result has been key for the Islamist party in the course of negotiations aimed at forming a new government, which would be the third in almost a year. In this way, the Islamist party has been key to becoming the main supporter of the government. 

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PHOTO/REUTERS - Supporters of Tunisia's largest political party, the Islamist Ennahda, march during a demonstration in opposition to President Kais Saied, in Tunis, Tunisia 27 February 2021.

Similarly, last month the president blocked parliamentary efforts to create a Constitutional Court. For this reason, Ennahda has accused Saied of having "authoritarian tendencies" and "monopolising power" in a context in which the country is in an institutional tug-of-war between the three presidencies. In one of his speeches, Saied claimed his role as "supreme commander" of the army, but also of the country's security forces, an argument that would have no legal basis since, according to a press release issued by Ennahda, "only the Magna Carta would have power over the armed forces".

The Tunisian country is currently in the midst of a serious economic crisis that has provoked social mobilisations in what is already considered the most serious crisis since the fall of Zine al Abidine Ben Ali's regime following the triumph of the Jasmine revolution in 2011.

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PHOTO/AP - In this 14 January 2012 file photo, protesters chant slogans against President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia.

In this sense, Tunisia has been the Arab country that has made most progress in the process of democratic transition in the context of the Arab Spring. Following strong pressure from social demonstrations, Ben Ali's regime was ousted and the first Tunisian Constitution was drafted and adopted on 26 January 2014 by the Constituent Assembly.