TUNIS (Dispatches) – Tunisia’s parliament speaker and leader of the Ennahda party, Rached Ghannouchi, has blamed the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the political turmoil in his country, which has seen President Kais Saied suspending parliament and seizing executive power.
Speaking to the Times newspaper, Ghannouchi said the Persian Gulf country was determined to “finish off” the Arab Spring, the 2011 uprisings that saw long-term rulers overthrown across the Middle East and North Africa.
“It has taken upon itself the idea that the Arab Spring was born in Tunisia and must die in Tunisia,” he said, adding that the UAE saw the brand of Islamic democracy propounded by Ennahda as a threat.
However, he said that he thought it was unlikely Tunisia would see something happen akin to the military takeover that happened in Egypt in 2013, a move that was backed by the UAE.
“Tunisia is not Egypt. There is a different relationship between the army and the government,” Ghannouchi said.
“Here, since the revolution, the army has protected freedom and the ballot box.”
Tunisia, the cradle of the Arab Spring protests a decade ago, was thrust into a constitutional crisis last Sunday after Saied sacked Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspended the country’s parliament for 30 days.
Saied said he would be running the country’s executive affairs in cooperation with a premier of his own choosing in the wake of violent protests across the nation over the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ailing economy.
Ghannouchi also said that the UAE was already worried about the possibility of a peace deal in neighboring Libya, which could also potentially lead to democratic elections.
“They have a great fear that democratic transitions might spread to the rest of the Arab region,” he stressed.