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Tunisia Saied appoints opponents of Ennahda to head elections authority

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

After appointing the members of the Supreme Judicial Council, Tunisian President Kais Saied appointed the members of the Independent High Authority for Elections (ISIE), which is supposed to hold a referendum on legal and constitutional reforms, as well as legislative elections on 25 July.

The president chose officials who are hostile to the Ennahda movement to form the ISIE. The president needs four loyalty members – out of seven that form the ISIE – in order to be pass the decisions he wants.

Farouk Bouaskar was appointed as the president of the ISIE, while Sami Ben Salama, Mohamed Tlili Mansri, Alhabib Al-Rabai, Maher Al-Jadidi, Mahmoud Al-Waer and Mohamed Nawfal Al-Farikha we're chosen as members.

Bouaskar was an opponent of the ISIE's former President Nabil Baffoun.

Saied had been expected to completely dissolve the ISIE and replace it with a new structure that would assume its duties in supervising the elections and the referendum.

Opposition from the international community, threats that assistance to Tunisia would be cut, and International Monetary Fund talks disrupted, forced Saied to change tact and simply change the ISIE's composition.

Ghannouchi: Opposition will not take part in Saied's referendum

New member of the ISIE lawyer Mohamed Tlili Mansri, was president off the body from October 2017, however his tenure did not last. Immediately after his election, several ISIE members threatened to quit the body after they discovered that political parties had come together and agreed to vote him in. This called into question the independent of the body.

The most controversial member that Saied appointed in the new structure of the ISIE is Sami Ben Salama, who was a member of Tunisia's first ISIE, which oversaw the first legislative elections after the overthrow of the Ben Ali regime.

Ben Salama is a civil society activist. He is known for responding to media invitations to attend as a political analyst. As an opponent of the Ennahda movement, he became a familiar face to Tunisians.

He does not hesitate to accuse Ennahda of violating the neutrality of the ISIE. After Saied announced his intention to change the structure of the ISIE, he sarcastically said: "The Ennahda movement will be expelled from the ISIE."

The three judges in the new structure of the ISIE are Judge Alhabib Al-Rabai, Administrative Judge Maher Al-Jadidi, and Financial Judge Mahmoud Al-Waer.

Saied appointed them after he chose them out of nine  names – three names for each category. The names were submitted to Saied by the members of the Interim Supreme Judicial Council, which he appointed after dissolving the previous Supreme Judicial Council.

Saied has held nearly total power since 25 July when he sacked the prime minister, suspended parliament and assumed executive authority citing a national emergency.

He appointed a prime minister on 29 September and a government has since been formed. In December, Saied announced that a referendum will be held on 25 July to consider 'constitutional reforms' and elections would follow in December 2022.

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