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Tunisia: Saied expands his powers to include Independent High Authority for Elections

April 23, 2022 at 2:01 pm

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

Tunisian President Kais Saied on Friday issued a presidential order granting him powers to appoint a head of the Independent High Authority for Elections (ISIE) before organising the popular referendum expected on 25 July.

The decision was published in the official gazette, stating: “The Independent High Authority for Elections council consists of seven members, whom a presidential order shall appoint.”

The decision grants the president the power to appoint the head of the ISIE from the members of the previous ISIEs and two other members, provided that the Supreme Judicial Council appoints the remaining four members.

In the past, the head of the ISIE was directly elected by members of parliament, which Saied decided to suspend on 25 July, and then dissolve permanently at the end of March.

In previous statements to local media, the current head of the ISIE, Nabil Baffoun, considered Saied’s decisions to dissolve parliament and monopolise the powers in the country: “Do not conform with the principles of the 2014 Constitution.”

Baffoun also confirmed: “Any change of the head of the ISIE or its members would be deemed illegal.”

READ: Tunisia president talks about coexistence between power and freedom

At the end of 2021, Saied announced a political roadmap, including a national electronic survey, which ended last March. More than 500,000 Tunisians have participated in the consultation, where they answered questions relating to the political system in the country and other topics, such as the economic and social situation. The president described the consultation as a “success”.

A committee is expected to collect citizens’ proposals and draft the main points for a referendum on the Constitution on 25 July.

On 17 December, new parliamentary elections are expected to be held, coinciding with the anniversary of the 2011 revolution, which toppled the regime of the late dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

In February, Saied dissolved the Supreme Judicial Council and replaced it with a temporary body, in a measure described by critics of Saied as a new authoritarian step, raising concerns about the independence of the judiciary.

The ISIE has supervised the various legislative, presidential and municipal elections that Tunisia has witnessed since 2011.

Since he decided to suspend parliament by presidential decrees, Saied has become in charge of managing the country’s affairs. Meanwhile, his opponents, led by the Ennahda Movement, criticise him, describing what the president did is a “coup against the revolution and the Constitution.”

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]