Tunisian President Kais Saied on Wednesday issued decrees strengthening his executive power and said he would only partially respect the constitution – elements of it that do not contradict new legislative and executive powers. He also announced that he would set up a committee that would change the political system. He added that the activities of the parliament would remain frozen, as would the immunity of deputies.
As of July 25, President Kais Saied wields all power in the country after he dismissed the government of Prime Minister Hisham Meshishi, suspended parliament, seized executive power in what his enemies called a coup d’état. He explained that he had to do so in connection with the nationwide protests related to the economic and sanitary crisis.
The decree stated that “the president exercises executive power with the help of a council of ministers headed by the head of government. The president of the Republic chairs the council of ministers and may appoint a head of it.”
The opposition is questioning the president’s actions
In recent weeks, Saied has come under increasing pressure from leading Tunisian politicians and Western donors to appoint a new prime minister and explain how he intends to lift the country out of the crisis.
The president also announced that he would set up a committee to change the political system. He added that the activities of the parliament would remain frozen, as would the immunity of deputies.
Parliament chairman Rashed Ghannuczi and head of the moderate Islamist party Ennahda, the largest opposition party in parliament, immediately on Wednesday described Saied’s action as a constitutional annulment and rejected it. In July, after the suspension of parliament, he accused the president of carrying out “a coup against the revolution and the constitution.”
Divisions in Tunisian society
Tunisians are divided – some welcomed the president’s actions with enthusiasm, counting on strong action against corruption and impunity. There were also protests against the president in the capital – demonstrators believe that the leadership’s actions are moving Tunisia back to the times of autocracy.
In 2011, during the Arab Spring, Tunisians freed themselves from the autocratic rule of General Zajn al-Abidin ibn Ali, introducing a democratic system in the country, which, however, did not bring economic prosperity. Years of political paralysis, corruption, declining state services and rising unemployment have discouraged Tunisians from the prevailing political system, and the coronavirus pandemic has deepened public discontent.
Main photo source: Hussein Eddeb / Shutterstock