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Tunisia: Essebsi calls for constitutional amendment

March 21, 2019 at 9:33 am

Late Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi in Tunis, Tunisia on 8 November 2018 [Fethi Belaid/AFP/Getty Images]

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi yesterday called to amend the constitution because of what he described as “differences in the interpretation” of some of the constitution’s chapters.

This came in a speech at the Carthage Palace to commemorate the 63rd anniversary of Tunisia’s independence from France.

“I have a prepared version of the constitutional amendment,” Essebsi said, without giving further details on the content of the suggestions.

He attributed the need for this amendment to “differences in the interpretation of some of the constitution’s chapters, and this problem must be resolved.”

Article 71 of the Tunisian Constitution states that “the executive authority shall be exercised by the President of the Republic and a government headed by a Head of Government.”

Essebsi continued that the formation of the recent government “has been conducted without consulting the president, following a consensus between the Prime Minister and Ennahda Movement (Islamic party/ 68 MPs out of 217).”

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Last November, the Tunisian parliament voted by an absolute majority to grant trust to a ministerial reshuffle proposed by the head of government Yousef Chahed without consulting the president. Under this reshuffle, 13 new ministers were appointed, in addition to five state secretaries as ministers.

Essebsi stressed: “It was not necessary to resort to the Assembly of the Representatives of the People [the Parliament] seeking its trust in the government without consulting the president.”

He insisted that this “violates the Constitution,” considering that the executive authority has become dominated by one side contrary to what is stipulated by the Constitution.

Speaking about the reasons for a constitutional amendment, Essebsi talked about “the disagreement between him and some political parties over the interpretation of the constitutional text regarding the religious reference,” referring to Ennahda Movement, which rejects a presidential initiative to establish equality of inheritance between men and women.

According to Essebsi, “The constitution is clear in its second chapter and stipulates that Tunisia is a civilian state.”

In contrast, the Ennahda Movement believes that the presidential initiative contradicts the constitution in its first article, which states that Tunisia is an Islamic country.

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