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Tunisia: academics refuse to join presidential committee to draft constitution

A group of people gather outside Municipal Theater to protest Tunisian President Kais Saied in Tunis, Tunisia on May 15, 2022. [Nacer Talel - Anadolu Agency]
A group of people gather outside to protest Tunisian President Kais Saied in Tunis, Tunisia on 15 May 2022 [Nacer Talel/Anadolu Agency]

The deans of law faculties in Tunisia have refused to join a committee established by President Kais Saied to draft a new constitution, Anadolu has reported. The presidential decree for the Consultative Commission and the National Dialogue Committee was issued on 19 May.

"We apologise for not accepting this assignment," the deans said in a joint statement. They justified their position by pointing to the neutrality of university institutions and the need to set them aside from political affairs in order not to be driven to take positions on political programmes that are not related to their academic, scientific, research and moral responsibilities.

"Since academics have the right, like other citizens, to have political opinions that they express freely, the exercise of this right must be under their name, not under the name of the university institution, especially when they have positions at the University of Tunis."

The Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), the country's largest and most significant trade union, announced on Monday that it has refused to participate in a national dialogue called by President Saied. According to the union, the dialogue will be "unable" to save the country from the political crisis which has gripped it since last July.

READ: Tunisia General Labour Union refuses to participate in a dialogue proposed by Saied

That is when Saied imposed exceptional measures, including dismissing the government, dissolving the parliament and the Supreme Judicial Council, issuing legislation by presidential decrees and setting an early date for the parliamentary election in December.

Saied decided to hold a referendum on 25 July on constitutional amendments that are under preparation. He also granted himself the right to appoint three of the seven members of the Independent High Authority for Elections, including its president.

His opponents regard these measures as a "coup against the Constitution", while his supporters see them as a "correction of the course of the 2011 revolution" which toppled the late former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Saied insists, though, that his measures come "under the provisions of the Constitution to protect the country from imminent danger."

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