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Tunisia prolongs its break from democracy




Kaïs Saïed now governs Tunisia alone (photo: Presidency of the Tunisian Republic)
Kaïs Saïed now governs Tunisia alone (photo: Presidency of the Tunisian Republic)
TUNISIA. The President of the Tunisian Republic announced, during the night of 23 to 24 August 2021, the publication of a decree extending "until further notice" the freeze of the Parliament. On 25 July 2021, Kaïs Saïed suspended the Assembly of People's Representatives (ARP) for thirty days, dismissed its Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and thereby assumed full powers. Since then, and contrary to what he had promised, no new head of government has been appointed, nor has a political roadmap been published.

To justify this breach of democracy, Kaïs Saïed relied on Article 80 of the Tunisian Constitution adopted in 2014. While it prohibits the dissolution of parliament, it does provide for the "freezing of its activities", in case of "imminent danger".

The opposition, mainly the Islamist party Ennahda, had then denounced a coup d'état, especially since these decisions were accompanied by the lifting of the immunity of several members of parliament - also extended - as well as the ban on sixty-five parliamentarians, but also businessmen, former ministers and judges, to leave the Tunisian territory.

In a statement, forty-five Tunisian judges denounced "the appalling and unprecedented attack on freedom of movement and travel (...) in the absence of any judicial procedure".

"Freedom of movement is a constitutional right that I am committed to guaranteeing (...) But some people have to answer to the law before they can travel," the Tunisian president replied.

The Tunisian NGO I-Watch has identified 14 MPs who have been prosecuted or convicted for a wide range of offences including crimes and misdemeanours, tax fraud, fraud, corruption, conflict of interest and sexual harassment.
 

Rumours of a coup against Kaïs Saïeb

According to Riadh Sidaoui, director of the Geneva-based Arab Centre for Political and Social Research and Analysis (Caraps), Kaïs Saïed has chosen to arrogate all powers to himself in order to avoid a coup d'état. Interviewed on the Tunisian radio station Jawhara fm on Monday 23 August 2021, he said that this attempt to seize power would have been fomented by the president of the ARP and leader of Ennahda, Rached Ghannouchi, Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, former Minister of Defence Brahim Bartagi and former Minister of Justice Hasna Ben Slimane. A call for an uprising of the forces of order was ready to be broadcast from the home of Hichem Mechichi on the Al-Jazeera channel. This would explain, according to Riadh Sidaoui quoted by the Tunisian press, the closure by the police of the Tunisian office of the Qatari channel.

On Monday evening, 23 August 2021, Rached Ghannouchi, leader of Ennahda, replaced all the members of the executive office of his party, "in order to meet the requirements of the current period with the required efficiency", he commented. Mohamed Goumani, who heads the crisis cell created within the opposition party, published the same day on social networks a post stating "No to the return to the pre-25 July, to scenes of tension between parliamentarians or between the two heads of the executive. Yes, to resume and rectify the democratic path blocked since 25 July, and to put an end to the exceptional situation."

In revealing the continuation of the state of exception, Kaïs Saïed indicated in a statement that he will address the Tunisian people in a few days.

 

Eric Apim


Tuesday, August 24th 2021



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