Africa as a whole has faced many challenges, notably colonization, which impeded the progress of many of its nations. The legacy of colonization persists, with numerous African countries still influenced by their former European rulers which led several of them to experiment with democracy. While democracy itself is a credible governance system with many benefits, its implementation in many African countries has often lacked a good foundation. This shaky setup allows some leaders to exploit the system and forcibly take all the power. Many African countries to this day struggle with keeping a stable and effective government no matter what type of government they use be it a monarchy or democracy. This problem stems from the days where European colonizers would boast about their superior lives as European, so once freed countries that have been under European influence for a long time are now confused about if they should go back to their indigenous system or if they should adopt the “perfect” political system that the europeans have been talking about. Tunisia serves as a prime example of a country that has gone through a lot of change politically and seemed like there was going to be great progress democratically, however they are now regressing to how they were before democracy was put in place.
For over half a century, from the 1950s until 2010s, Tunisia was a one-party state. In 2011 a major uprising led to the dissolution of the reigning political party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally. This caused Tunisia to transition to a multi-party democracy, culminating in the first official democratic parliamentary elections in 2014. However, this democratic phase was short-lived. The democracy has since started falling apart once Kais Saied became president in 2019. Many people called him a dictator which made the Tunisian people alert of not wanting to go back to the days of the Constitutional Democratic Rally.
Saied was voted into office because his main objective was to stop the corruption in the country that has been in the country since Tunisia has been a democracy. Another reason that made him so popular prior to his election was how much the younger generation of Tuinisan citizens appreciated him. He promised the youth that he would fix the country by fixing many problems that affected the younger generations such as the high unemployment rate of people under 24 as they faced the highest employment rate out of all the people with an astounding 60% of the youth being unemployed. Having the young population on his side made Saied successful because with the youth behind him he would be able to have long term projects that the youth would back more than the older population since they have more time to fix the country.
Kais Saied has sent Tunisia into a democratic backsliding all while not many people noticed the changes made to the countries until too many were made that the country felt like it was regressing instead of progressing. The absence of proper checks and balances allowed his efforts to reshape Tunisia. Among his moves were the dismissal of the prime minister, suspension of the parliament, and crucially, his assumption of all executive functions. These actions alarmed many Tunisians, particularly given the nation’s past entanglements with autocratic leadership spanning from the 1950s to the 2010s. Despite holding the title of “president” Saied’s powers across executive, legislative, and judicial spheres paint him more as a dictator than a president. Some of the public has been losing trust after seeing many changes taking place even though none of the changes are any of the major problems that the country has been having for years such as its very poor economy. Ever since coming into office Kais Saied hasn’t changed the high unemployment rate or inflation which is one of the reasons the country struggles.
Saied’s popularity has been very fluctuant. In 2019, he enjoyed an impressive electoral victory, gaining 70% of the votes, for a multitude of reasons, but partly because he ran as an independent candidate and how different he was from the other candidates. Yet, his subsequent actions in office, particularly the centralization of power and perceived lack of economic initiatives, made many people lose faith in him. Critics also chastise him for his ambiguous communication style, arguing that he often remains elusive about his visions for Tunisia’s progress. However, Saied still retains a loyal base who believe in his actions, viewing them as necessary to curb corruption and rejuvenate the democratic process. His supporters believe that despite the steps that seem to take the country back to an autocracy it is actually better in the long term and will eventually make Tunisia a proper democracy that can hold itself for decades to come without corruption, economic issues and proper checks and balances.
Overall, Kais Saied is trying to improve his country however the steps needed to do that seem very reminiscent of the many issues Tunisia has gone through in the past with autocracies and dictatorships which is why many Tunisians can’t fully back him because of the history of the country. However Tunisia won’t be able to see much stability or consistent progress if they don’t have one leader make the changes needed to fix the country and create a stable base.