In another chapter of the crisis that Tunisia is going through, President Kais Saied extended, last Monday evening (23), the suspension of Parliament, in force since July 25, a measure that has generated more allegations of coup d ‘State.
By a decree, Saied extended until further notice the exceptional measures relating to the suspension of the activities of all deputies, as well as the immunity of parliamentarians, according to a press release from the presidency. A statement to the nation was also announced in the coming days, without further details.
A month ago, the Tunisian president suspended the legislature for 30 days, sacked Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and assumed full executive powers – Tunisia operates in a mixed parliamentary system in which the president is only responsible diplomatic and military functions, and the country is ruled by the Prime Minister.
The decision was denounced as a coup d’etat by jurists and opponents of the president, in particular by the Islamic party Ennahda, which has the largest bench in parliament. After the measures, the president neither appointed a new prime minister nor presented his plans, demanded by Western allies, political parties and civil society organizations.
Faced with the demands of the opposition, Saied repeated that he had acted strictly “within the framework of the law” and the Constitution of 2014. Since the suspension of Parliament a month ago, the president defends that his measures are guaranteed by article 80 of the Constitution.
The article does not say that the president can suspend Parliament, but says that in the event of “imminent danger which threatens the integrity of the country, its independence and its security, [o presidente] can take the necessary measures for this exceptional situation “, on condition of consulting the Prime Minister and the head of the Legislature. Tuesday (23), the president defended that” the Parliament is a danger for the State “.
The suspension was the culmination of a political crisis that has lasted for more than six months, with Saied, the leader of Ennahda and Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Rashed Ghannouchi, and Prime Minister Mechichi in constant conflict, which has crippled government amid rising Covid-19 contagions – the country ranks sixth in the world for the number of deaths per 100,000 population, according to data from the New York Times.
In the weeks leading up to Saeid’s measures, the country recorded a series of acts against the Prime Minister and Ghannouchi, also motivated by the mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic. At the time, the president said in a note that “many have been deceived by hypocrisy, betrayal and the theft of people’s rights” to justify his measures.
To protest against the president, Tunisians took to the streets, urging the government to deploy military troops to contain the protests. Amid the crisis, new restrictions were also imposed on Covid-19 – an announcement seen as an attempt to contain the protests.
Among other actions, the executive decreed a curfew that would last for a month and end on Friday (27), with a ban on driving at night, between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m., except for emergencies and night workers. The movement of vehicles from one city to another and gatherings of more than three people in streets or public places were also prohibited.
Exasperated by the political class, many Tunisians, on the other hand, enthusiastically welcomed Saïed’s determinations in the hope that he would act firmly against corruption and impunity. The president was elected in 2019 as an outsider of the political system, with an anti-corruption rhetoric.
But while the president is hugely popular, his measures worry the international community, which fears the country will revert to the authoritarianism of a decade ago when the Arab Spring, a series of protests that rocked South Africa. North and the Middle East, broke. from the end of 2010. The so-called “anti-corruption purge” launched by the president after the July measures is raising concerns and fears of a decline in freedoms in Tunisia.
Authorities, businessmen, judges and deputies have been the target of arrests, travel bans and house arrest by decision of the Ministry of the Interior and without justification, have denounced human rights defenders.
Political parties are among the most affected by the president’s actions, especially Ennahda, who was already weakened. This Monday (23), shortly before the announcement of Saied, the Islamic acronym announced the departure of its leaders.
Leader Ghannouchi decided to terminate the functions of all members and form a new board “to meet the demands of the current period with the necessary efficiency,” the party said in a statement.
Amid the most severe political crisis of the past decade, the country also has to contend with constant economic problems since the Arab Spring – last year the economy shrank by 8%. Cradle of the movement, Tunisia is considered the most successful example of these revolutions.
On this occasion, the demonstrators succeeded in overthrowing the then dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and in changing the political system of the country, with a new constitution in 2014 which established the distribution of powers between the president, the Prime Minister. Minister and Parliament.