THE Archbishop of the Anglican Province of Alexandria, Dr Samy Fawzy, has offered prayers for the people of Tunisia as the country faces a serious political crisis. It erupted when the President, Kais Saied, dismissed the Prime Minister and suspended parliament for 30 days. Supporters and opponents of the President clashed on the streets of Tunis.
Dr Fawzy said that he was praying for the Anglican community “in light of the political instability in the country, wishing safety for all Tunisians and progress and development for Tunisia”. He conveyed his wishes via the pastor of St George’s, Tunis, the Revd Frank Bernadi, who said that his congregation were praying “that the country will cross these difficult circumstances”.
Tunisia is regarded as the one country to have emerged successfully from the Arab Spring popular uprisings of 2011, with relatively smooth progress to democracy. But democratic freedom was not accompanied by measures to improve the state of the Tunisian economy and create jobs for the rising number of unemployed young people. The government was widely criticised for being incompetent and corrupt, and for its inept handling of the Covid pandemic.
The President’s decision to remove the Prime Minister, Hichem al-Mashishi, who had the backing of the Islamist Ennahda party, was widely applauded by Tunisians. Supporters of Ennahda and the other main coalition partners, on the other hand, accused President Saied of having carried out a coup. The President denied this, saying that he respected the constitution. His aim, he said, was to target corruption in political circles.
The direction in which President Saied will take his country in the coming days is not yet clear. But reaction across the Middle East reflects the political polarisation there: countries sympathetic to politically Islamic parties — notably Turkey and Qatar — denounced the President, while opponents of political Islam, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, praised him.
A few days after dismissing the government, President Saied received the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia: a signal of the kingdom’s satisfaction at the turn of events.