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Tunisia: president ‘usurped’ power and measures must be ‘confronted’

April 5, 2022 at 2:23 pm

A protest against the President of Tunisia, Kais Saied in front of Palais de Justice in Tunis, Tunisia on 10 February 2022 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]

A Tunisian civil society group has denounced the president’s referral of members of parliament for investigation by the judiciary. The National Committee for the Defence of People’s Representatives also called for the “exceptional measures” introduced by President Kais Saied last July to be “confronted”.

The committee made its comments during a press conference in the capital, Tunis. The group was formed after seven MPs were referred to the Anti-Terrorism Unit, including the Speaker of Parliament, Rached Ghannouchi, following an online session of parliament last week. One of Saied’s measures was to suspend the work of parliament; he declared last week’s meeting to be illegitimate.

“The situation before the parliamentary session on 30 March is different from that which has followed it,” said Ahmed Najib Chebbi, a member of the committee. Chebbi is also the head of the political wing of the Hope Party.

“The plenary session has lifted the ‘legitimacy’ of all the exceptional measures imposed by President Saied,” he explained. “The president usurped power and has now dissolved parliament without thinking, as a reaction to the outcomes of the session. He has called for the anti-terrorist teams to investigate MPs.”

READ: Tunisia: Ennahda says dissolution of parliament is violation of constitution

This, said Chebbi, is taking advantage of the internal political vacuum. “We call on opposition forces, civil society and those in politics to combine their efforts and create parallel forces in the political scene that force Saied to annul his unconstitutional decisions.”

Another member of the committee, Samir Dilou, told Anadolu Agency that the seven deputies who were referred to the Anti-Terrorism Unit on Friday will appear before the public prosecutor for interrogation today, Tuesday.

“All possibilities are open, whether dismissing the case, or the continuation of investigations or their detention,” said Dilou. “We live outside the constitutional framework; we live under the framework of the individual personal project of the President of the Republic, who has exploited all the State’s resources for his success.”

The Tunisian authorities did not issue any immediate comment on these accusations, but they usually deny them and affirm their commitment to the constitution of the country, alongside rights and freedoms.

On 25 July last year, Saied suspended parliament and dismissed the prime minister and his government. Tunisia has been going through a political crisis ever since, with the president introducing legislation by presidential decree and dissolving the Supreme Judicial Council.

Several political parties condemned Saied’s “exceptional measures” as a “coup against the constitution”. His supporters view them as a “correction of the course of the 2011 revolution” that toppled former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Tunisia's president Kais Saied is bleeding the country - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Tunisia’s president Kais Saied is bleeding the country – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]