Despite the approval of the Tunisian constitution after the revolution of January 14, 2011, a “quasi-parliamentary” system that would permanently end the intrusion of the presidential system that ruled the country for decades; However, he remained at stake in the eyes of constitutional experts and political leaders.
A remarkable statement two days ago by the head of the Ennahda Movement and Parliament, Rashid Ghannouchi, repeated the debate about the nature of the political system produced by the revolution, when he acknowledged the existence of what he called “a violent struggle between the presidential and parliamentary systems.”
Conflict of powers
Ghannouchi said, “The political culture in Tunisia is a presidential culture that has been established since the era of the Beys,” and that the parliamentary system that the revolution brought about needs patience with the aim of settling it, stressing that most of the democratic systems in the world are parliamentary systems.
According to constitutional experts, the current political system insofar as it provided a guarantee of non-return to the square of despotism by reducing the powers of the president of the republic in favor of the government and its head, but it created a clash not only between the two heads of the executive authority; Rather, it exceeded the legislative authority.
Article 71 of the post-revolution constitution states that “the executive authority is exercised by the president of the republic and by a government headed by the prime minister.”
Constitutional law professor Moataz Al-Qarqouri describes the current political system as hybrid; To grant him “incomprehensible” powers to the President of the Republic in a parliamentary system, by electing him directly by the people.
In his speech to Al-Jazeera Net, he pointed out that this system created a conflict over the powers, which are the core of the executive authority, between a president who derives his electoral legitimacy from the people who voted for him directly, and a prime minister who derives his legitimacy from the parliament – the people’s representative – who gave him confidence.
Al-Karkouri explains that the characteristic of the current political system is to grant the parliament and the party with the parliamentary majority broad powers, related to granting confidence to the government and withdrawing it from it.
However, he added that the principle is that the government emanates from Parliament; However, in a second stage, the president of the republic can choose the prime minister as the most capable person, when the most representative party is unable to give confidence to the government, which has introduced a kind of turmoil and paved the way for a conflict of powers between the legislative and executive authorities.
He concluded that any political system has its pros and cons. But he remains a hostage of the ruling political class and how it deals with him, according to his description.
Conflict of powers
Article 89 of the post-revolution constitution states that, within a week of announcing the final results of the elections, the President of the Republic assigns the candidate of the party or the electoral coalition who has obtained the largest number of seats in the Assembly of the Representatives of the People. Government formation within a month, to be renewed once.
When the specified deadline is exceeded without forming a government, or in the event that the confidence of the House of Representatives is not obtained, the President of the Republic shall, within 10 days, conduct consultations with parties, coalitions, and parliamentary blocs; To assign the most capable personality to form a government in a maximum period of one month.
A system the size of the Renaissance
For his part, the head of the Democratic Movement, Mohamed Najib Chebbi, told Al-Jazeera Net that the political system in Tunisia was tailored to the size of the Ennahda movement, with the aim of granting it the powers to form a government after its chances of winning the presidential elections diminished.
Chebbi believed that Ennahdha and its allies in power had previously played on the Tunisians ’fear of repeating the experience of autocratic autocracy, and convinced them of the feasibility of reducing the powers of the president of the republic.
He concluded that the current political system has proven its failure by breaking the unity of the executive authority, and by distributing and dispersing powers between the two heads of a single executive authority represented by the prime minister and the president of the republic.
Failed attempts to change the system
Previously, political parties and leaderships led repeated attempts to change the political system, amend the constitution and establish what was called the “Third Republic”. But all its attempts collided with a popular and parliamentary rejection of the currents and parties affiliated with the revolution.
Tunisians recalled in 2019 a previous call by the late President Beji Caid Essebsi to amend the constitution, with the aim of expanding his powers, during the escalation of disputes between him and Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, who was supported by the Ennahda movement.
Essebsi expressed, during a previous speech on the occasion of the 63rd anniversary of Independence Day, “his regret” for the prime minister’s monopoly of the executive power after it was in the hands of the President of the Republic.
The same scenario was repeated with the current President of the Republic, Qais Saeed, who chose Prime Minister Hisham El-Mechichi as the “most capable person,” and then raised his veto in his face; Because of sharp differences over the composition of the ministerial and conflict over the powers.
Said does not hide his dissatisfaction with the existing political system, hinting more than once in his intention to amend the constitution, perhaps the most recent of which was his speech to Tunisians at the beginning of the year when he said, “The political system in Tunisia needs a vaccine of a new type that will restore Tunisia’s health.”
A guarantee against dictatorship
“The current political system, despite everything that is said about it, remains much better than the central presidential system, by providing a real guarantee against dictatorship,” according to his description, the leader of the Ennahda movement, Rafik Abdel Salam.
In his interview with Al-Jazeera Net, Abdel Salam mentioned previous unsuccessful attempts to amend the constitution and return to the presidential system, as these shops collided with the brakes of the political system based on the distribution of powers between Carthage, Parliament and the government.
Our interlocutor refused to describe the existing political system as hybrid, indicating that it was imposed in light of the political balances and consensus that took place during discussions of the constitution, between parties calling for a parliamentary system, including Ennahda, and others wanting to return to the presidency.
The former minister stressed that the obstacle is not in the political system; Rather, the existing electoral system, which prevented the emergence of a clear majority delegated to managing government affairs, in exchange for coalition governments hostage to consensus among parliamentary blocs.