Outrage and calls for protest in Tunisia after Saied suspends constitutional rule
President Kais Saied’s announcement on Wednesday that he would ignore parts of the Tunisian constitution and rule by decree has caused outrage in Tunisia, with widespread calls for protests and parliamentarians and former government ministers denouncing the move.
Last July, Saied suspended parliament for a month, lifted immunity for parliamentarians, and sacked Prime Minister Hichem Michechi in actions widely characterised as a “power grab” and a “coup”. Since then several MPs have been arrested.
Saied’s latest announcement appears to consolidate his power grab and make it more permanent.
Samir Dilou, an MP from the moderate Islamist Ennahdha Party and a former human rights minister, told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service that Saied’s latest announcement was “a dissolution of parliament in all but name”.
“The president has indeed taken over all the roles of the parliament but hasn’t announced its formal dissolution in order to avoid the ‘coup’ label,” he said.
Yesterday’s decree by Kais Saied abolished the commission to review the constitutionality of laws and states that the president’s decrees are final and not subject to any review. This is the definition of dictatorship - absolute power, no oversight #TunisiaCoup https://t.co/2mNH3CVhNn— TunisiansAgainstTheCoup (@TunisiaCoup) September 23, 2021
“Today Tunisia has gone from being a democratic republic to an unconstitutional monarchy,” Dilou added, “we are no longer in the framework of the late [2014 constitution] but in the framework of de facto authority”.
Noomane El-Euch, who leads the 38-strong Democratic Bloc in parliament, told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service, “Saied has carried out a coup against the constitution and the parliament, violating Article 80 [of the constitution] which says that the parliament has to be in session and cannot be dissolved in a state of emergency”.
The MP accused Saied of using “deception” to “change the system of government from a quasi-parliamentary one to a presidential one where one person holds all the power”.
“All the decisions taken by this president are void and must be resisted so that the Tunisian people can regain their constitutional rights and preserve their dignity, he added.
Another MP, Rafik Emara of the Heart of Tunisia party, told the New Arab’s Arabic-language service that Saied had “attacked national sovereignty and destroyed the democratic experiment”.
Prior to the president’s power grab last July, Tunisia was considered the only country in the Middle East and North Africa to have successfully instituted a democratic system of government following the 2010-11 Arab Spring.
On Twitter, the Arabic-language hashtag “#Citizens_against_the_Coup” started trending amid calls for a protest next Sunday outside the Municipal Theatre in central Tunis.
Former Prime Minister Ali Larayedh said on Facebook that what is happening in Tunisia is a “complete coup” which “aimed to monopolise executive, legislative, and judicial authority”.
He said that “legitimate struggle” was needed to counter it.