On the 13th anniversary of Tunisia’s revolution, observed against the backdrop of President Kaïs Saïed’s assumption of full powers in 2021, the atmosphere in Tunis was marked by a mix of bitterness and hope. The country has witnessed a surge in arrests of opposition figures and journalists since Saïed’s power grab. Despite the reemergence of authoritarianism, a few hundred Tunisians gathered on Avenue Bourguiba, the epicenter of the 2011 revolution.
Against the backdrop of the Tunisian capital, the procession, armed with Tunisian flags and the constitution, moved through the streets of central Tunis under the watchful eyes of deployed law enforcement. Faouzi Charfi, leader of the left-wing Al Massar party, expressed a sense of bitterness on this anniversary: “We are experiencing a solitary regime turning towards authoritarianism. There are political prisoners held without valid reasons, and journalists silenced. This is not the essence of the Tunisian revolution that cost the lives of 300 people.”
Within the demonstration, chants resonated: “The people demand the fall of the coup.” Among the marchers was Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, a member of the Front du Salut organizing the event. Despite President Saïed consolidating significant powers, Chebbi remains hopeful: “Consider the French Revolution, one of the most illustrious in the world. After the uprising, there was a coup by Napoleon Bonaparte, followed by the restoration of the monarchy and then the Empire. It is natural for the transition to democracy to take time, but it won’t take as long in this digital age.”
An upcoming presidential election is scheduled in Tunisia this year, but the list of candidates remains uncertain. A significant number of Saïed’s opponents now find themselves behind bars, raising concerns about the fairness of the electoral process. The tension between the aspiration for democratic governance and the challenges posed by the current political climate casts a shadow over Tunisia’s journey since the historic revolution.