Tunisian President Kais Saied on Wednesday announced a partial suspension of the country’s constitution and the extension of extraordinary measures that have prevented parliament from exercising its functions and revoking the immunity of its members.
The announcement, which was made on the presidency’s Facebook page, said articles of the constitution in conflict with the president’s extraordinary measures would be suspended, along with the work of parliament. In his absence, presidential decrees can serve as legislation and MPs would no longer receive their salaries or enjoy parliamentary privileges, the statement said.
He also said Saied would form a committee to prepare amendments to the Tunisian constitution, one of the leader’s main goals since the early days of his campaign.
Critics accused Saied of a coup in July, when he sacked the prime minister, froze the activities of parliament and assumed sole authority in the country after he invoked an article in the constitution that allows the president to implement an exceptional period of 30 days at certain times. of imminent danger to the country.
In the absence of a constitutional court, which had not sat in part due to the president’s rejection of a law changing the way judges are appointed, Saied extended the measures indefinitely in August.
Mr. Saied has repeatedly asserted that his actions comply with the guiding principles of the constitution.
Monica Marks, assistant professor of Middle East policy at NYU Abu Dhabi and close observer of Tunisia, says Mr. Saied’s actions jeopardize the country’s first democratically representative constitution.
âThe Tunisian constitution was adopted in 2014 with almost unanimous support after years of parliamentary wrangling and exhaustive consultations with Tunisian civil society,â she said.
If the president passes changes by decree, it risks destroying “something for which so many Tunisians have fought incredibly hard after decades of dictatorship.”
Earlier this month, palace aide Walid Hajjem told Sky News Arabia that the president intends to propose amendments to the 2014 constitution, which was drafted by a constituent assembly following the revolution of 2011, for a national referendum.
The move has been criticized by both allies and opponents of Mr. Saied, who call for dialogue and inclusion in the creation of a new political system.
In recent weeks, several parties that initially backed Saied after July 25 have distanced themselves from the president as he increasingly isolated himself and failed to appoint a new prime minister despite repeated assurances that he would.
Mohamed Abbou, co-founder of the center-left Attayar party, said this week on Jawhara FM radio that a referendum could make Saied “illegitimate”. He criticized the president for rejecting a constitution he had sworn to defend.
The powerful Tunisian General Workers Union (UGTT) also rejected unilateral amendments to the country’s constitution. Earlier this month, they presented their own detailed roadmap to emerge from the crisis, including updating the electoral law and holding early elections, but reaffirmed their commitment to the 2014 constitution.
Updated: September 22, 2021, 9:47 PM