“I see no point today in changing the government”
“I believe that behind the publication of the Black Book of the Presidency of the Republic there was a conviction on the part of President Moncef Marzouki to draw benefits from it among the general public to polish his image.”
Chawki Gaddes, Secretary General of the Tunisian Association of Constitutional Law and Executive Secretary of the International Academy of Constitutional Law gave African Manager an exclusive interview, in which he described the elections of 23 October as average. He also spoke of the instability of parties and their leaders, the immaturity of the political class at the levels of structures and people.
Chawki Gaddes also spoke of the publication of the Black Book of the Presidency of the Republic, noting that the measure falls under the evil deeds we used to have from the Presidency of the Republic.
Which party is responsible for the political crisis in Tunisia?
A crisis is not usually the responsibility of a single party. It is the combination of a specific situation and the action of certain players and sometimes the inaction of others.
In my opinion, the first cause of this crisis is unquestionably all those who were originally behind the referral of Tunisia on this thorny path, littered with dangers. These are those who initially proposed the sudden death of the constitution of 1959 and at the same time advocating the establishment of a constituent assembly. This proposal was subsequently taken over by a certain segment of the political class who made of them the slogans of Kasbah I and II, insisting on full sovereignty and authority without limits of this structure.
Politicians and society had remained sealed to voices raised now to draw attention to the dangers of such an approach.
What should have been done?
If we had set up a committee of experts to review the 1959 constitution to be submitted to popular referendum, we would have been, since the end of 2011, in a situation of stable and legitimate government.
The crisis has an initial cause, but also actors who have also cultivated elements that will amplify. Thus, the high authority had a share of responsibility by offering questionable texts as is the case of the Decree-Law on the election of the NCA or the creation of the election authority (ISIE). Unintentional gaps certainly resulting from a lack of practical experience and especially the lack of consultation and the resort to international expertise led to the establishment of elections which, until now, have not really been seriously evaluated.
Options and choices proved to be open to criticism as the use of database of identity cards, the ambiguity surrounding voter registration, the compensation seats in the allocation of seats per constituency, the unconditional vote of Tunisians abroad and the distribution of constituencies, the lack of ISIE powers to regulate the electoral campaign , the use of professional representation in the composition of the ISIE , the lack of powers of the administrative and financial body… resulted in elections of average quality that gave the results which we all know.
Thereafter, the responsibility lies with the poor perception of the mission and responsibility of a constituent assembly and the characteristics of a transition period. Candidates for the constituent assembly showed, since their election campaign, that they confused the election of a constituent assembly responsible primarily for drafting the constitution with legislative elections that allow choosing future members of the body called to exercise power and therefore govern by implementing a policy for the country, by amending the legal framework for key areas and improving the economic situation in the country … Thus, we promises for the creation of thousands of jobs, greater justice in the distribution of development efforts , comfort and welfare. We even saw promise to find a spouse for every Tunisian in age to marry and to lower the price of a “Baguette” (bread) to 100 millimes.
And what can we blame NCA members for?
Once elected, members of the Constituent Assembly settled in this logic of the initial misunderstanding of their mission. They did not focus on the drafting of the constitution as quickly as possible, but wanted to take the opportunity to change the world. In its rules of procedure, it went into detail that could only be justified by the introduction of a text of organizing a traditional legislative activity not an ephemeral Constituent Assembly.
This was also one of the reasons that will lead to the crisis through poor drafting of transition texts by people who have proven incompetent: constituent law on the provisional organization of public authorities, rules of the NCA, the law establishing the ISIE … the NCA refused any expertise in this area. The few lawyers in the Constituent Assembly with the exception of two of them are practitioners of private law, while the work to be done rather pertains to different specialty, that of public law. The result of this “stubbornness” of constituent assembly members or the great majority of them, of their option to want in all cases to start from a clean slate, to be confined to themselves without recourse to external expertise, not to determine priorities and especially time for completing the constitution drafting process… mainly led inevitably to this crisis by delaying deadlines that had to be close.
The other very important element that pushed us in the current crisis is the lack of maturity of the political class both structures and individuals. After the end of the dictatorship, freedom of assembly, but also formation of associations and political parties, has become a reality for all citizens. Thus and only until the elections of 2011, Tunisians have seen the number of political parties increase from nine in January 14, 2011 to some 123, on the date of October 23, 2011. This inflation constituted a political pollution likely to confuse Tunisians who will not know where to turn and that showed their dismay through their absenteeism in the 2011 elections and the defragmentation of the electoral map between micro parties.
The results do not cut the appetite of Tunisians in this field, and today, we find more than 150 courses.
What will increase the factors conducive to the onset of the crisis, was the instability of political parties and their leaders. Thus, we witnessed “political tourism” within the NCA and saw the breakup of political formations into many others. We also witnessed the emergence of groupings that fail very quickly. Then followed very rapidly the assassination of leaders who were politically bothersome.
Finally, the responsibility for the crisis lies with the inaction sometimes or bad actions of certain bodies or parts of society. They are the components of the civil society which remain, despite their variety, very little united around a single project. However, their responsibility in the period of transition is great: Explanation, education, awareness-raising, mobilization and especially pooling of resources.
The civil society, just like the political class, has been divided into two distinct families: organizations close to the majority party and those distant from it. This last group of organizations and unions itself remains highly fragmented and uncoordinated. Each structure seeks its field of action, its financing and its preferred region. The action that was expected to illuminate the way resulted eventually in the opposite of what is expected.
A new prime minister has been appointed, pending the formation of its members, do you think that is what we really need today?
My personal belief is that I there is no interest today in changing the government, for different reasons. In an assembly regime like the one established by the provisional organization of public authorities, the center of power is re- located within the NCA. Therefore, the government cannot do anything without the support of the NCA. The fate of draft motions of no-confidence over the past management of the assembly, perfectly demonstrates this state of affairs.
Thus, if the next government is independent, I doubt it could have in the assembly support to conduct its work.
On the other hand, I doubt the political opportunity to make this change. Successive governments of Ennahdha have pushed the country to an economic, social and political crisis. This record has eroded the popularity of the majority party. This would undoubtedly affect the outcome of the upcoming elections. Allowing power transfer today primarily serves that party which will show that its failure to improve the situation is cyclical and even the government in place is unable to reverse the situation. More importantly, the opposition really believes it has with this transfer while this process will allow Ennahdha leaders to discharge their governmental duties and get actively involved in the electoral process.
For all these reasons, I think it is neither strategically nor operationally suitable today to change the government.
How have you seen the Black Book of the Presidency of the Republic knowing that it has denied being behind the publication of this book?
I believe that behind this operation was a conviction on the part of President Moncef Marzouki to draw benefits from it among the general public that would polish his image. Pretending that they do not intend to publish this book does not explain why it was at the official printing facility of the Republic.
This act falls within the scope of wrongdoing which we used to have from the Presidency of the Republic. We have to remember severing of diplomatic relations with Syria. We have to remember the inaugural speech on the “safirates.” We have also to remember the so-called gift of the vast majority of his salary to state coffers. Tunisians will not forget the proposal to Russia to host Assad…
Before concluding with this, I wonder why the White Paper on leader Habib Bourguiba has never been made available to the public?
Tunisia prepares for elections? What is the date of the next election, according to you, and what are the current emergencies?
The primary purpose of the transition in Tunisia has always been the organization of generalized elections, presidential, parliamentary, regional and local. All actions undertaken since November 2011 tend to this result.
What will be the probable date of future elections? This depends very much on the real intention of the NCA to establish the necessary framework for elections. When can this be done?
December or what remains of it will see the adoption of the Finance Act. During this same time, the compromise commission will complete its consultations with experts on the draft constitution. It will eventually find the legal solution that would bring amendments to the draft constitution to be approved by the compromise commission.
And what about 2014?
The beginning of 2014 will help solve the problem of setting up the ISIE. Therefore, the election body could begin the process of forming its administrative and regional bodies and the evaluation of the voters list which should migrate from the CNI to the ISIE.
In early February, the Constituent Assembly will spend this month in the discussion and adoption of the constitution.
After that, the NCA will have to consider the enactment of the law essential for the national consultation, i.e. the electoral code.
When the next election will be held according to you?
Once all elements are united, elections may well begin to be organized from the end of November or in December 2014. We must not forget that Tunisians will have to go to the polls in five successive occasions: two presidential and legislation, and local and regional elections.