Tunisian president says parliament suspended indefinitely

AFP , Tuesday 24 Aug 2021

Saied issued "a presidential decree extending the exceptional measures... regarding the suspension of Parliament and lifting of the parliamentary immunity of its MPs until further notice", the presidency statement said.

President Kais Saied
In this Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021 file photo provided by the Tunisian Presidency, Tunisian President Kais Saied raises his fist to bystanders as he stroll along the avenue Bourguiba in Tunis, Tunisia. AP

Tunisian President Kais Saied has extended his suspension of parliament "until further notice", a month after sacking his premier.

 
"Parliament is a danger to the state," he said on Tuesday during a meeting with Trade Minister Mohamed Bousaid.
 
"The existing political institutions and how they operate represent a persistent danger to the state."
 
A statement from the presidency late Monday extended an order freezing immunity for lawmakers and said Saied would address the people in the coming days, without elaborating.
 
Tunisia, hailed as a rare democratic success story in the Middle East and North Africa, has been mired in political crisis since Saied's intervention, which comes as the country struggles with dire economic woes and the Covid-19 pandemic.
 
On July 25, Saied invoked the constitution to extend his authority, dismissing the head of government Hichem Mechichi and freezing parliament in what activists have called a "purge" that has seen opponents, judges and businessmen arrested or banned from travel.
 
Saied issued "a presidential decree extending the exceptional measures... regarding the suspension of Parliament and lifting of the parliamentary immunity of its MPs until further notice", the presidency statement said.
 
'Preparing the ground'
 
Last month's intervention, which Saied said was necessary to prevent the country from collapse, sparked uncertainty for the North African nation.
 
He has yet to appoint a new government or reveal a "roadmap" for his decisions despite repeated demands by political parties.
 
While the president enjoys widespread popularity at home, his move sparked fears internationally that the cradle of the 2011 Arab Spring is regressing towards authoritarianism.
 
Analysts expect Saied will announce new measures to reassure Tunisians and the international community about his decisions.
 
 
The intervention has faced condemnation from judges and Saied's opponents, in particular the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party, the largest bloc in parliament.
 
 
Popular support
 
A retired constitutional law professor, Saied has used Article 80 of the constitution adopted in 2014, which allows for exceptional measures if there is an "imminent danger" to national security, to justify his decision.
 
"The freedom to travel is a constitutional right which I promise to guarantee," he said last week in response to critics.
 
"But some people will have to answer to the judicial authorities before being able to travel."
 
Many Tunisians have backed Saied's move to strip parliamentarians of their immunity, seen as a long-overdue move against a corrupt and inept political class.
 
Saied was voted into power in 2019 on the back of a campaign in which he pledged to fight corruption.
 
Ennahdha, seen as one of the key targets of Saied's move, has called for a national dialogue -- something the president quickly dismissed.
 
Shortly before Saied's latest announcement, the party announced the dismissal of its executive committee.
 
Party leader and parliament speaker Rached Ghannouchi, who has faced criticism over his handling of the crisis, decided to form a new board "in order to meet the demands of the current period", a party statement said.
 
It has yet to react to Saied's extension of the parliament freeze.
 
* This story has been edited by Ahram Online
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