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Tunisia: election authority will supervise polls, 'but not in its current structure'

Tunisia's President Kais Saied [JOHANNA GERON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]
Tunisia's President Kais Saied [JOHANNA GERON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]

Tunisian President Kais Saied said on Wednesday that the Independent High Authority for Elections will supervise any future polls, "but not in its current structure," Anadolu has reported. Saied did not clarify what that means.

The election authority is a constitutional body that has supervised elections since October 2011. It consists of nine "independent, neutral, qualified" members who are elected by parliament with a two-thirds majority. They perform their duties for six years and, every two years, one third of its members are renewed.

Rather than explain what he means by "not in its current structure" the president went on to talk about the online national consultation that he launched in mid-January.

"The national consultation is the basis for dialogue, and during discussions I will not impose my opinion," he explained. It was intended to "promote citizens' participation in the democratic transition process", and lasted until 20 March.

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The results were announced last Friday. They showed that about half a million people participated, and that 86.4 per cent of those who took part want to convert Tunisian politics into a presidential system. The current population of Tunisia is just under 12 million people.

Nevertheless, said Saied, "Based on [the consultation], a bill amending the constitution will be issued — it may be a new constitution — and then we will go to a referendum so that the final decision will be that of the people."

The president rejected any "dialogue with thieves", although he did not name who he means. They are presumably not among the "organisations" with which he is prepared to talk. "The country must be completely purified from those who tampered with its capabilities," he insisted. "We will confront anyone who tries to strike the sovereignty of the people."

The US has called on Saied for a "rapid return" to democracy in Tunisia. This message was passed on by US Ambassador Donald Blome during a meeting at the presidential palace on Tuesday.

"The US urges a rapid return to democratic constitutional rule, including an elected parliament, in addition to implementing a reform process that meets the demands of the various political spectrum and civil society," said Blome. He reaffirmed America's support for "the aspirations of the Tunisian people for an effective, democratic and responsive government."

Tunisia has been witnessing a political crisis since last July, when Saied imposed "exceptional measures", including the suspension of parliament and the dismissal of the prime minister. His political opponents described the measures as a "coup against the constitution", while his supporters called them a "correction of the course of the 2011 revolution", which toppled the late President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Saied, who began a five-year presidential term in 2019, insists that his measures are "within the framework of the constitution to protect the state from an imminent danger."

READ: Tunisia president 'usurped' power and measures must be 'confronted'

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