Tunisian President Qais Said has always raised controversy whenever he speaks to the military leaders about political rivalries and the role of the army in preserving legitimacy, which was considered by partisan parties as bullying the military establishment and an attempt to plunge it into political battles.
The debate was exacerbated by Saeed’s talk a few days ago – during his supervision of the Supreme Council of the Armies meeting – about the ministers ’request to him to allow the army to intervene to help run civilian sectors such as health and education, describing the military’s interventions as the fastest and most effective.
The president’s speech opened the door to speculation about his desire to divert the army from barracks and border protection to interference in public affairs and civilian sectors, in light of a stifling political and economic crisis and social movements in more than one province.
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The Tunisian army with a republican belief is the only Arab exception in the countries where the winds of the revolution blew, by its bias towards the will of the people, its commitment to the barracks, and its reliance on the authority that was lying on the road during the escape of the deposed Ben Ali to Saudi Arabia.
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The Tunisian president’s statements – during the opening of a military field hospital in the Kebili governorate in southern Tunisia, on the 11th of last May – aroused the ire of MPs when he spoke about “political misery” and about the possibility of the people withdrawing the agency from parliament members.
Last July, Qais Saeed said during a night visit to the Special Forces Corps barracks, that the army is able to confront external and internal conspiracies and those stalking legitimacy.
In his speech to Al-Jazeera Net, Abdul Latif Al-Alawi, the deputy for the Dignity Coalition, said that Qais Saeed is living in a state of “fascination” with the military prestige, and that his constitutional status as the commander in chief of the armed forces is a card of strength and pressure against his opponents.
Al-Alawi warned of the seriousness of what was said by the president, when he spoke about the ministers ’request to him to summon the army for civilian tasks, pointing out that one of the late President Bourguiba’s few advantages – according to his description – was that he maintained the neutrality of the military establishment, as did the late President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
The MP expressed his fear that the president’s words would suggest opening the door for the army to organize, not only in support of the state’s efforts, but also in larger economic areas that might reach the point of partnership.
However, he said that the Republican Army of Tunisia is far from attempts to engage it in political battles and in civilian economic fields similar to the experiences of coup armies in other countries.
In turn, the leader of the Ennahda Movement, Muhammad bin Salem, does not hide his fear of what he described as the “verbal slips” of the president of the republic, pointing out that every time he intends to praise the military establishment in exchange for the persistence in the corruption of parties that carries with it contempt for democracy that is built by the parties and not by the army, according to his saying.
Bin Salem stressed, in a statement to Al-Jazeera Net, that the Tunisian army’s republican doctrine is fixed and will not change, after it had shown in more than one historical stage that it was exempt from power and political life as a whole.
Areas of military intervention
On the other hand, the retired general from the Tunisian army, Ahmed Shabir, said in his interview with Al-Jazeera Net that there is no objection to invoking the President of the Republic, as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, internal issues in front of the army, pointing out that the military institution has carried since its inception the philosophy of protecting Tunisian soil away from any Ambitions.
He stated that the army is one of the elements of power that a politician uses in terms of his national responsibilities, and the army’s advantage in the speed of intervention and the effectiveness of implementation, as he described it.
He pointed out that the first nucleus of the resurgence of the Tunisian army was after independence, unlike other armies that had a role in defeating the colonialist, such as the Algerian army, which contributed to its entry into public life, unlike the formation of the Tunisian army at the hands of the politicians themselves.
He explained that the areas of the army’s intervention were controlled by Order No. 671 in 1975, which allows it to carry out tasks other than its customary ones, with the aim of supporting the state’s efforts to preserve the life of the population, the nation’s gains, and economic and social development.
On the other hand, he stressed that the recall of political battles in the army barracks and in front of its leaders did not happen with former presidents of the republic such as Bourguiba, Ben Ali and Essebsi.
And the President of the Republic – during his visit to the military barracks at the Al-Jadid Hotel in the coastal governorate of Nabeul in May 2020 – directed arrows in his criticism of his opponents from the political parties, accusing them of lying and hypocrisy, considering that some of them imagined that sitting with the armed forces was a prelude to breaking the law or introducing To dissolve Parliament.
Representative of the Democratic Movement, Ziad Ghanay, described some expressions of fear of the president’s attempts to involve the army in political disputes as a “catch in troubled waters,” and the desire of some to create a mock battle with the President of the Republic.
In his speech to Al-Jazeera Net, he considered that the Tunisian army possesses a republican ideology, and its interventions and tasks, whether inside or outside the barracks, are known to the public and are regulated by laws.
It is noteworthy that political leaders and even former deputies from the heart of the parliament had previously called on the military institution to issue the number one statement, and to take over power, but these calls were met with popular rejection and the harsh and cynical criticism of their owners.