Tunisia’s President Kais Saied has indicated plans to vary the country’s constitution, seven weeks after he seized power in moves his opponents called a coup.
The comments on Saturday represented Saied’s clearest statement yet about what he intends to try to to next, having sworn there was “no going back” to things within the North African nation before his intervention on July 25.
Speaking survive television during a central Tunis boulevard, Saied said he respected the 2014 democratic constitution but that it had been “not eternal” and will be amended.
“Amendments must be made within the framework of the constitution,” he told the Sky News Arabia channel and Tunisian state television.
One of Saied’s advisers told Reuters press agency on Thursday the president was getting to suspend the constitution and offer an amended version via a referendum, prompting opposition from political parties and therefore the powerful UGTT labour union.
Anxiety has been growing, both internally and among Western democracies that have supported Tunisia’s public finances, over Saied’s intentions since his July 25 announcement that he was sacking the prime minister and suspending parliament.
The former constitutional law professor justified those moves by citing emergency measures within the constitution that his critics and lots of legal scholars said didn’t support his intervention. Though he indefinitely extended the measures after a month, he has yet to appoint a replacement government or make any clear declaration of his long-term intentions, as Tunisia struggles to confront a rolling depression .
Saied on Saturday pledged again to make a replacement government “as soon as possible”, after selecting “the people with the foremost integrity”.
He declined to offer a selected timeline, however.
Saied’s intervention drew widespread support after years of political paralysis, but it’s thrust Tunisia into crisis a decade after it threw off dictatorship and embraced democracy within the revolution that triggered the Arab Spring.
Political leaders have complained about the constitution since it had been agreed in 2014, calling for it to be changed to either a more directly presidential, or a more directly parliamentary, system.
Article 144 of the constitution says an amendment to the document can only be put to a referendum if it’s already been approved by two-thirds of the parliament, an establishment Saied last month called “a danger to the state”.
The current parliament was elected in 2019, every week after Saied was elected. He doesn’t have the facility to dissolve it and call new elections, but a number of the parties within the deeply fragmented chamber have indicated they might do so themselves.
The moderate Islamist Ennahdha, the most important party in parliament with 1 / 4 of the seats, has accused Saied of completing a coup and on Saturday said deviating from the constitution would mean a retreat from democracy.
The UGTT, the most labour union in Tunisia, also signalled on Saturday it opposed the thought of suspending the constitution and called instead for brand spanking new parliamentary elections.
Meanwhile ambassadors from the Group of Seven advanced economies last week urged the Tunisian president to quickly form a government and return to “a constitutional order, during which an elected parliament plays a big role”.