Tunisia’s Saied strengthens presidential powers in decrees

International

Tunisian President Kais Saied waves to Tunisian citizens as he delivers a speech during his visit to Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, Monday, Sept. 20, 2021. Tunisia’s president has announced plans to draft a new electoral code and appoint a transitional leadership and to hang on to the exceptional powers that he seized in July, throwing the country’s young democracy into question. (Slim Abid/Tunisian Presidency via AP)

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisian President Kaïs Saied issued presidential decrees bolstering the already near-total power he granted himself two months ago.

Wednesday’s decrees include the continuing suspension of the Parliament’s powers and the suspension of all lawmakers’ immunity from prosecution. But the text published in the official gazette went even further — now freezing lawmakers’ salaries.

They also state Saied’s intention from now on to rule by presidential decree alone and ignore parts of the constitution. Laws will not go through the parliament, whose powers are frozen, granting him near-unlimited power.

On July 25, Saied sacked Tunisia’s prime minister, suspended parliament and assumed executive authority, saying it was because of a national emergency. His critics called it a coup.

For law professor Mouna Kraiem, the new emergency measures amount to “the establishment of a dictatorship in the full sense of the word.”

Saied has denied wanting to be a dictator, saying that he eventually aims to put his political reforms to the public in the form of a nationwide referendum. But his political critics remain skeptical of this intention.

The July event came after years of economic sluggishness, but were triggered by a day of violent protest and a rise in coronavirus cases.

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