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Interview with Le Monde: Caid Essebsi defends Revolution achievements, six years after fall of old regime.

(TAP) - The newspaper Le Monde published in its December 19 edition, the interview granted by President Beji Caid Essebsi during his visit to Paris on December 11- 13.

In this interview, the Head of State especially defended the Tunisian Revolution achievements, six years after the fall of Ben Ali.

On the issue of the return of former collaborators of Ben Ali to the current government, Caid Essebsi stated that every Tunisian has the right to participate in the country's political life, if he has not been convicted.

"And those who worked with Bourguiba, will we exclude them? When Ben Ali was in power, 2 million Tunisians worked with him. We will not exclude them as every Tunisian has the right to participate in the political life of his country. It is not a crime to have worked with Ben Ali, otherwise they will be deprived of their nationality and that no one but the justice can do it," he considered.

In response to a question about the launch at the same time of the "hunt for corruption" campaign led by Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, and the amnesty law on administrative corruption, the President of the Republic pointed out that this law is a presidential initiative and only targets competent officials who had executed direct and irrefragable instructions of the State at the time. "We have not amnestied people who had diverted money from the State," he specified.

Referring to the Tunisian constitution and the current political regime, he recalled that hybrid systems (semi-presidential, half-parliamentary) have never worked very well.

He added in substance: "I am responsible for the respect of the constitution. We must continue to apply it and I do not intend to start a review process unless others are working on it."

"Personally I am for a well-controlled presidential system to avoid the presidential drift that we knew under Ben Ali and Bourguiba," he indicated.

Asked about his assessment of the work of the Commission on Truth and Dignity (IVD), Caid Essebsi affirmed that this authority "has nothing to be proud of in its performance, as long as it has not fulfilled its role regarding transitional justice."

Furthermore, questioned about the possibility of running for president in 2019, Beji Caid Essebsi replied: "When I ran in 2014, I was 88, and at the end of my term, I will have 93 I am someone serious. My obligations are until 2019, and the future is God's."

Asked about the beginning of a "dynastic drift" within the Nidaa Tounes party, alluding to the leadership of the party owned by his son, the president of the republic claimed that his son had not inherited the party but had rather been appointed by a congress in Sousse.

"If the leaders of Nidaa Tounes are not happy with him, they just have to send him back," he specified.

Returning to the question of the postponement of municipal elections, the President of the Republic stressed that he was in favour of holding these elections as soon as possible. "If they could not have been held on December 17, it's because the electoral authority was not complete. Now, some parties are calling for a postponement. For me, it is not necessary that it exceeds April," he clarified.

Asked whether the Nahdha Movement accepts gender equality reforms, Caid Essebsi underlined that the Justice Ministry had withdrawn the 1973 circular that forces non-Muslim men to convert to Islam before marriage.

Regarding equality in inheritance, "I created a commission that will prepare the appropriate texts," he pointed out.

"For the moment, Ennahda did not say anything, but I do not think they will see it as a major inconvenience. The 2014 Constitution lays the foundations of a civil State, not a religious one."

As regards the recent demonstrations in the Kef and Tataouine and a possible 2nd social revolution in Tunisia, Caid Essebsi did not deny that the unemployment rate remains high (628,000 persons, 250,000 of whom arer graduates) and that parts of the country's interior regions are still marginalised.

"All the ingredients of a social unrest are there. These movements are natural. The revolution has achieved freedom of expression But dignity is also in work," he considered.

Regarding the recurrent problem of emigration, he pointed out that there has been a recent upsurge mainly due to what is happening in the Mediterranean and Libya. "At home, the situation is generally under control," he asserted.

Asked about the security threat at the border with Libya, the president of the republic affirmed that the border is now under control, "we have a common border of 450 km, which were not very secure as in 2015 Tunisia was the target of three terrorist attacks whose perpetrators infiltrated from these borders."

In his comment on the UN data that 5,500 Tunisians have joined extremist groups such as the terrorist organisation "Daesh" or "Al-Qaeda," Caid Essebsi described the data as exaggerated.

"There are about 2,000 and this number is high, but now things are under control. In case they return back, these people will be subject to the law, specifying that many now are under arrest or under house arrest."

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Publication:Agency Tunis Afrique Press
Geographic Code:6TUNI
Date:Dec 19, 2017
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