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Tunisia president: Declarations by US officials are not acceptable

August 22, 2022 at 11:57 am

Tunisian President Kais Saied in Tunis. [FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images]

Tunisian President Kais Saied said yesterday that statements by some US officials about his country were “not acceptable”.

This came during a meeting between Saied and a delegation from the US Congress at the Carthage Palace, near the capital, Tunis, in the presence of the Chargé d’Affairs of the US Embassy in Tunisia Natasha Franceschi.

According to the Anadolu news agency, Saied began the meeting with the American delegation by “citing two centuries of Tunisian-US ties.”

Saied then said: “Recent declarations by US officials are not acceptable as Tunisia is an independent and sovereign state, and that the Tunisian people expressed their will in a July 25 referendum approving a new Constitution.”

According to the news agency, a number of other issues related to relations between the two countries and the common desire to further support them were discussed.

On 29 July the Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced, in a statement, that it had summoned the Chargé d’Affairs of the US Embassy in order to denounce the interference and unacceptable statements of US officials who criticised the referendum on the new constitution.

A day earlier, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a statement in which he said the “new constitution in Tunisia could weaken democracy.”

READ: Is Kais Saied a popular dictator or a misunderstood reformist? 

The statement, published by the US Embassy in Tunisia, affirmed that “In coordination with our allies and partners, the United States has and will continue to use all tools at our disposal to support the Tunisian people in forging a democratic and accountable government that preserves the space for free debate and dissent.”

The US State Department statement coincided with a speech delivered by the new US Ambassador to Tunisia, Joey Hood, before Congress, in which he stressed that he “would use all tools of U.S. influence to advocate for a return to democratic governance.”

On Wednesday, the Tunisian president announced that the new constitution would go into effect.

Several Tunisian political forces rejected the results of the referendum, such as the National Salvation Front, the Ennahda Movement, and the National Campaign to Overthrow the Referendum (a coalition of five leftist parties), and the new constitution on the grounds that 75 per cent of the people did not vote. They believe the new constitution grants Saied expanded powers by allowing him to unilaterally appoint the prime minister and the cabinet. The legislative branch is also weakened and divided into two bodies.

Tunisia has been in the throes of a deep political crisis that aggravated the country’s economic conditions since Saied ousted the government, suspended parliament and assumed executive authority in July 2021. He later dissolved the assembly after lawmakers held a session to challenge his measures.

While Saied insists that his measures were meant to “save” the country, critics have accused him of orchestrating a coup.

READ: Tunisia: Authorities ban ex-minister from travelling for the eighth time