Tunisian president suspends parliament indefinitely

A handout picture provided by the Tunisian Presidency Press Service on April 9, 2021 shows Tunisian President Kais Saied (center), Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi (right) and Assembly Speaker Rached Gh
(Photo: Jordan News)
TUNIS— Tunisian President Kais Saied has extended his suspension of parliament "until further notice", a month after sacking his premier and granting himself greater powers in a shock intervention opponents decried as a coup.اضافة اعلان

"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.

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.

Political scientist Slaheddine Jourchi told AFP the president's decision had been expected. 

He said Saied wants to show "that he is not in a rush".

But his move also "prepares the ground for measures which could be more radical" such as "freezing or abolishing the constitution and dissolving parliament," Jourchi said.

"It has become clearer than ever that the president does not want anyone other than himself in power," he added.

The intervention has faced condemnation from judges and Saied's opponents, in particular the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party, the largest bloc in parliament.

Several politicians, businessmen, and judges, as well as members of parliament — who lost their immunity after Saied suspended the legislature — have said they have been banned from traveling abroad or put under house arrest without warning.

Their claims have sparked a chorus of condemnation, with critics denouncing "arbitrary" and "unjustified" measures.

Read more Region and World