Tunisian president extends suspension of parliament, sets elections in a year

Tunisian President Kais Saied said Monday that parliament, suspended nearly five months ago, would remain suspended until elections he has set for December 2022, and called a July referendum on constitutional reforms.

In a speech on national television, Saied announced a “popular consultation” with the Tunisian people and said that “other draft constitutions and other reforms will be put to referendum on July 25.”

It will mark a year since he sacked the government, suspended parliament and seized a series of powers in the only democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring uprisings a decade ago.

His decision came as the North African country wallowed in political and economic crises compounded by the coronavirus pandemic.

He then decided to rule by decree.

Saied, who has been a strong critic of the North African country’s 2014 constitution, said on Monday that a nationwide public consultation would take place from January 1 to March 20 to gather suggestions for constitutional and other reforms.

A committee will then examine them until June, before the referendum on the anniversary of the proclamation of the Tunisian republic after independence from France.

Parliament will remain suspended until “elections are held under new laws on December 17 next year”, he said.

Earlier on Monday, Saied told the cabinet that constitutions are “not forever”.

“The people exercise their sovereignty within the framework of the constitution,” Saied said.

“So if it is not possible for the sovereign people to exercise their rights within the framework of a text, then a new text is needed.”

The 2014 constitution, which established a hybrid presidential-parliamentary system, was seen as a compromise between the powerful Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party and its secular rivals.

But many Tunisians see the political system he created as having failed, creating corruption and endless blockages without solving deep social and economic problems.

About Wesley V. Finley

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