Towards a new political system in Tunisia?

“Extraordinary measures” by Tunisian President Kais Saied to strengthen his powers to the detriment of the government and parliament are outlining a new political system that is causing concern among his opponents and civil society.

From now on, the president will legislate without a vote by parliament through decree-laws whose activities have been suspended since Mr. Saeed gave himself full powers on July 25 and will preside over meetings of the Council of Ministers. For Tunisian constitutionalist Chafik Sarsar, one cannot speak of a “dissolution of parliament”. The president decided to “break with the 2014 constitution,” which had established a parliamentary hybrid regime, he explains.

For this professor, the President established “a provisional organization of capabilities to prepare for the transition toward another constitutional system”. According to Mr. Sarsar, Mr. Syed has instituted a “new miniature constitution” of sorts. Political analyst Salah al-Din al-Dayashi believes that his decrees are intended to correct the “imbalance in the 2014 constitution”, which leaned heavily in favor of parliament.

Parliament collapsed as a result of the November 2019 legislative elections, which allowed the Islamist-inspired party Ennahdha, Mr. Saeed’s son Noir, to play a key role. Mr Dayashi warned against a possible drift towards “excessive presidential rule”, with the risk that the president “does not become the center of power around which the state turns”. French political scientist Vincent Geyser, researcher at the IREMAM Institute specializing in the Arab world, goes on to speculate that “the decree formalizes the presidential turn of personal and authoritarian power that Tunisia has engaged in since July 25”.

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To this researcher, these measures lead to “the marginalization of parliament and political parties, with an executive power centered almost exclusively on the president and a government that is only the head of administration in the service of the president”.

In his view, President Said has “turned the page on the first phase of Tunisia’s democratization”. Officially, these are “extraordinary measures”, which have led to the de facto suspension of two chapters of the Constitution regulating executive and legislative powers. The presidential decree also announced the establishment of a commission—of which the president would decide the composition—that would assist the president in “the preparation of draft amendments relating to political reforms”.

Mr. Syed indicated that he wanted to amend the 2014 constitution. “We are not in a simple temporary management to restore order in the country”, believes Mr. Geisser who sees Wednesday’s decrees as “the milestones of a new political order, the basis of new institutions”. . “In this decree, we see Saeed’s political program, a new political regime centered on the president.” Mr. Dayashi agrees. “A significant part of the project begins to crystallize more and more”, referring to the “presidential system”, he said. Ennadha, through the voice of one of its leaders, Samir Dilou, lamented the “transition from democratic power to one-man power”, while another official, Mohamed al-Goumani, lashed out at Mr Saeed for “pulling Tunisia into a high-risk zone”. ” Accused of. .

At the moment, Kais Syed “enjoys a very strong capital of trust in civil society,” Mr. Geiser said. “There is a divide between those who believe they see the strong man who will save Tunisia and others”. “This president has ties with the elite, he’s backed by the security forces, he’s a very strong president,” he underlines. Since the 2011 revolution, which overthrew the Ben Ali regime, the term has been freed in all circles in Tunisia: NGOs, unions, political, artistic and media circles. But according to Mr Geiser, “there is no united democratic front, civil society actors are divided and a phenomenon of fear has begun”. The first trial since former president Moncef Marzouqi will take place on Sunday, followed by some elites called for a rally in Tunis “against dictatorship and corruption”.

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