What future for Tunisia as the crisis between the president and the parliament worsens?


Analysts say President Saied wants to form a direct democracy that bypasses political parties, an act that is “straight out of the dictator’s playbook”.

Tunisian President Kais Saied has said legislative elections will not be held within the next three months, hours after dissolving the democratically elected parliament, plunging the country into the most serious political and economic crisis since the 2011 revolution.

Last July, as protests erupted over corruption, the economic crisis and the handling of the pandemic, Saied suspended parliament, granted himself extraordinary powers and sacked his own prime minister and other officials.

At the time, he received support from many Tunisians, but opposition grew as he extended his control and took more power.

In defiance of Saied, the Tunisian parliament decided on Wednesday to meet again virtually.

The president tried to block online video platforms across the country in a bid to prevent a vote against his takeover, but was unsuccessful.

READ MORE: Tunisia: Saied dissolves suspended parliament “to preserve the state”

A few hours later, in his speech, he accused the Parliament of having tried “to organize a coup d’etat with foreign intervention” and announced that he was dissolving the Parliament “to protect the government, the institution and the Tunisian people.

On Friday, Saied also announced that he would not hold elections within three months and would instead work to draft a new constitution, which will be put to a referendum on July 25 and then hold elections in December.

Rached Ghannouchi, speaker of the assembly and leader of the Nahda party, told Reuters that at least 20 lawmakers from Nahda and other parties had been summoned by an anti-terrorism unit for investigation.

Until July, when Saied suspended parliament, Tunisia was considered the only democracy to emerge since the 2011 Arab Spring, a series of popular uprisings that swept the Arab world.

READ MORE: Tunisia’s e-consultation process is another pretext for Saied’s takeover

Saied, a former constitutional law professor, was elected president in a landslide vote in 2019.

The crisis between the president and parliament has left democracy in jeopardy – if not on life support – in Tunisia, analysts say.

“But more importantly, it means that the real and serious social and economic needs of Tunisians are not being met without a clear path,” Sarah Yerkes, Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told TRT World.

“The economy is worse off under Saied’s one-man rule than it was under a democratic Tunisia and instability has increased. Saied is not acting in the best interests of Tunisia or Tunisians.

Prices for basic goods and services have soared across the country and many businesses have closed.

Earlier this month, Tunisia’s powerful UGTT union threatened to protest IMF-backed economic reforms if they were not included in negotiations over the country’s political and economic future.

Saied’s government has started talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a loan deal that will require austerity measures such as subsidy cuts and wage caps in the public sector. This has already been rejected by the UGTT.

“Tunisia’s external position is already in a dire state and against a backdrop of no IMF deal, low reserves and exclusion from global capital markets, this further reinforces our long-held view that the government is heading towards default,” Capital Economics, the London-based consultancy, said in a note on Wednesday.

However, the UGTT union leadership still largely supports the president and his decision to dissolve parliament, which could help him in the coming days.

Saied is said to want to form a direct democracy that bypasses political parties which analysts say are “straight out of the dictator’s playbook”.

“The next step for Tunisia is unclear. On the one hand, Saied is losing more and more public and political support every day. So far, he has offered no concrete ideas on how to address the challenges facing Tunisians. Yerkes told TRT World.

“But on the other hand, opposition parties and civil society groups have been unable to form a broad coalition capable of countering Saied’s actions.”

Source: World TRT


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