Tunisia’s President Saeed hints he will amend the constitution

FILE PHOTO: Tunisian President Kais Saied takes the oath of office in Tunis
FILE PHOTO: Tunisian President Kais Saied takes the oath of office in Tunisia
FILE PHOTO: Tunisian President Kais Saied takes the oath of office in Tunis, Tunisia on October 23, 2019. Reuters / Zauber Suisse / File photo

September 11, 2021

by Tarek Amara and Angus McDowall

TUNIS (Reuters) – Tunisia’s President Kais Saied indicated on Saturday that he was preparing to change the country’s constitution, but said he would do so only using existing constitutional means, seven weeks after he attacked his enemies. called a coup.

The comments represented his clear statement of what he intended to do next, he vowed not to “go back” on the status of the North African nation prior to his intervention on 25 July.

Speaking live on television at a central Tunis boulevard, Saeed said he respected the democratic constitution of 2014, but it was not eternal and could be amended.

“Amendments must be made within the framework of the constitution,” he told Sky News Arabia channel and Tunisian state television.

One of Syed’s advisers told Reuters on Thursday that the president was planning to suspend the constitution and offer a revised version through a referendum, prompting opposition from political parties and the powerful UGTT labor union .

Since Saeed’s July 25 announcement that he is sacking the prime minister and suspending parliament, there has been growing concern in both the internal and Western democracies that support Tunisia’s public finances.

The former constitutional law professor justified the move, citing emergency measures in the constitution that his critics and many legal scholars said did not support his intervention.

Although he indefinitely extended the measures after a month, he has yet to appoint a new government or make any clear announcement of his long-term intentions, as Tunisia struggles to cope with a rolling economic crisis. Has been doing.

Saeed also said on Saturday that he was close to forming a new government. This week ambassadors from the Group of Seven advanced economies urged them to do so quickly and return to “a constitutional system in which an elected parliament plays an important role”.

Interference

Sayyid’s intervention garnered widespread support after years of political paralysis, but it plunged Tunisia into crisis when it threw out autocracy and embraced democracy in the revolution that triggered the Arab Spring.

Political leaders have complained about the constitution since it was agreed in 2014, calling for it to be changed to either a more directly presidential, or more directly parliamentary, system.

Article 144 of the constitution says an amendment to the document can only be put to a referendum if it has already been approved by two-thirds of parliament, an institution Syed called a “threat to the state” last month. Was.

Elections to the current parliament were held in 2019, a week after Saeed was elected. It does not have the power to dissolve it and call new elections, but some parties in the deeply fractured chamber have indicated they may do so themselves.

The moderate Islamist Ennahda, the largest party in parliament with a quarter of the seats, accused Saeed of orchestrating a coup and said on Saturday that withdrawing from the constitution would mean withdrawing from democracy.

Tunisia’s main labor union UGTT also indicated on Saturday that it opposed the idea of ​​suspending the constitution and instead called for new parliamentary elections – a route Syed may now consider.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara and Naira Abdullah, Editing by Paul Simao, Writing by Angus McDowall)

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