Tunisia President Says No Going Back As New Election Law Planned
Tunisia’s president said he’d enacted rules to oversee the current transitional period and would draft a new electoral law to take the North African nation on a new political course, weeks after a power grab that sparked concerns about democracy in the Arab Spring’s birthplace.
Kais Saied suspended parliament and fired the prime minister in late July, but has yet to articulate what will happen next. Initially enjoying widespread support from a public fed up with political wrangling and economic malaise, rumblings of concern have since surfaced, even among early backers of his move.
In a televised address, Saied said provisions were in place to govern the transitional period. In the meantime, parliament would continue to be suspended.
Saied didn’t elaborate on the interim provisions but his announcement amounts to a suspension of the constitution, constitutional law professor Mouna Krayyem was quoted as saying by Shems FM radio.
The country’s powerful labor union, the UGTT, criticized his latest announcement, even though it initially threw tentative support behind his decision to suspend parliament.
Saied was granted “executive authority to fill the voids and solve the problems,” Noureddin Tebboubi, the union’s chief, told Mosaique FM radio. “Economic and social issues cannot be left unaddressed.”
On par with the concerns about the country’s democracy are those linked to its economic future. A sorely needed IMF program that would help bolster investor confidence is unlikely to materialize without any new government in place. That only serves to deepen the fiscal pain that helped push Tunisians to support Saied’s July decisions.
Small protests broke out in recent days over the apparent lack of progress as fears mount that Tunisia is headed back toward the kind of autocratic government that stifled freedom for decades before the peaceful protests that ousted Zine El Abidine Ben Ali 2011 and reverberated across the region.
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A university professor elected on a broad anti-establishment platform, Saied has repeatedly indicated that a constitutional change was in the offing but has not elaborated on what this might entail.
Saied has stressed that he has no intention of limiting political freedoms, only rooting out corruption, but patience is wearing thin among some Tunisians.
His speech, in the town of Sidi Bouzid, ground zero for the Arab Spring uprisings, was interrupted by shouts from the crowd as people complained that they’d be left to starve.
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