Tunisia’s president has declared he can rule by decree and ignore parts of the constitution as he prepares to change the political system, prompting immediate opposition from rivals.
Kais Saied has held nearly total power since July 25 when he sacked the prime minister, suspended parliament and assumed executive authority, citing a national emergency in a move his foes called a coup.
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The provisions, announced on Wednesday, appear to be aimed at tipping the balance of power in favour of the presidency.
They were laid out in a series of decrees published in the official gazette.
Saied has come under growing pressure from key Tunisian political players and Western donors to name a prime minister and explain how he intends to move past the crisis.
The presidency said Saied would form a committee to amend the political system. Other parts of the constitution would stay in force, it said.
It said parliament’s activities would remain frozen with members’ right of immunity from prosecution still lifted.
The leader of the moderate Islamist Ennahdha party, the biggest in the deeply fragmented parliament and a member of successive governing coalitions, immediately rejected Saied’s announcements.
Rached Ghannouchi told the Reuters news agency the announcement meant cancelling the constitution and that Ennahdha, which had already declared Saied’s July 25 intervention a coup, would not accept that.
This month, one of Saied’s advisers told Reuters he was planning to suspend the constitution and offer a new version via a public referendum, prompting a backlash from the powerful labour union and political parties.
Saied has denied having dictatorial aspirations, insists his moves are constitutional and has promised to uphold the rights of Tunisians.
His broadly popular intervention came after years of economic stagnation and political paralysis, aggravated by a sharp spike in COVID-19 cases and a day of violent protests.