August 8, 2022

President Kais Saied has proposed a brand new structure that might formalise his sweeping seizure of powers after dismantling a lot of Tunisia’s younger democracy over 11 turbulent months.

However as he prepares for a referendum to approve his modifications, challenges loom ever bigger, with the economic system dealing with collapse and opposition to his rule rising.

A former regulation lecturer with a stiff public method, Saied moved in opposition to the parliament final summer season, surrounding its constructing with tanks, giving himself the suitable to rule by decree and assuming final authority over the judiciary.

He has depicted his actions as a corrective to political dysfunction and corruption attributable to the 2014 structure that shared powers between president and parliament.

However his critics say he’s a brand new dictator whose energy seize final yr was tantamount to a coup and whose march to one-man rule has trashed the democratic positive aspects of Tunisia’s 2011 revolution.

The structure he introduced late on Thursday enshrines a supreme function for the president, relegating each parliament and judiciary to capabilities of the state he’ll lead, relatively than branches of energy in their very own proper.

Having framed his July 25, 2021, seizure of powers as the beginning of a brand new republic, he has set the referendum on his new structure on the anniversary of that date.

Saied was a political novice when elected president in 2019. Lower than two years later, he outmanoeuvred his extra skilled political adversaries, together with the Islamist Ennahda social gathering, together with his sudden strikes in opposition to the parliament and former cupboard. These steps heralded the beginning of his bid to amass energy.

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They seemed to be vastly widespread amongst Tunisians who have been fed up with political bickering and financial malaise. Hundreds took to the streets to rejoice and the president basked in a acknowledged conviction that he represented the desire of the individuals.

His supporters have hailed him as an impartial man of integrity standing as much as elite forces whose bungling and corruption have condemned Tunisia to a decade of political paralysis and financial stagnation.

However critics are deeply sceptical of guarantees he’ll protect the rights and freedoms gained in 2011, which he has written into the draft structure, and say he’s throttling Tunisia’s nascent democracy. Saied has painted his opponents as enemies of the individuals and has urged arrests of those that defy him.

Whereas it’s unclear simply how a lot backing Saied continues to take pleasure in, opinion polls have indicated declining assist. The economic system is in serious trouble and Tunisians are rising poorer.

The highly effective labour union is already mounting public sector strikes over financial reforms required for an IMF bailout and has additionally indicated it disapproves of his referendum.

Although opposition to Saied is fragmented, with essentially the most highly effective events refusing to place apart outdated variations to reject his plans, it has mobilised hundreds of demonstrators in protests in opposition to him.

In contrast, after a pro-Saied rally final yr that Reuters journalists current stated had drawn just a few thousand, the president boasted that 1.8 million of his supporters had flocked to the streets.

NEW REVOLUTION

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Tunisian politics is intently watched overseas due to the nation’s function in triggering the 2011 “Arab Spring” uprisings and its success as the only democracy to emerge from them.

Saied, a solemn, 64-year-old who speaks an ultra-formal type of classical Arabic, desires to rewrite the historical past of that revolution, when he would stroll at night time by Tunis’s outdated metropolis speaking with protesters.

He has modified the date when the state marks its anniversary to minimize the ousting of autocratic president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and has rejected the outcomes of exhausting negotiations afterwards that led to a democratic structure.

That 2014 structure was the work of rival political events and civil society organisations who held a grand nationwide dialogue to work previous bitter disputes for a compromise that appeared to deliver the nation collectively.

Upon his election in 2019 as an impartial candidate, defeating a media mogul accused of corruption in a landslide second-round victory, he declared a brand new revolution.

Moreover dismissing the unpopular however elected parliament, Saied has ousted the beforehand impartial judicial authorities and electoral fee, elevating fears over rule of regulation and the integrity of elections.

He has additionally purged state workers, together with some within the safety providers, to oust individuals linked to the principle political events.

He has since stated he desires to carry new parliamentary elections in December.

For a lot of Tunisians, Saied stays one thing of a caricature whose frequent on-line movies present him lecturing subordinates or guests from behind the presidential desk.

These movies have given few insights into coverage plans to deal with Tunisia’s essential financial issues, however they’ve usually included fiery rhetoric in opposition to his detractors and opponents, including to fears the president seeks autocratic ends.

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