US Congress Committee: Democracy in Tunisia is in danger

Ten years after the Arab Spring, Tunisians are discovering that political reform alone isn’t enough

Tunisians wave national flags to mark the fifth anniversary of the 2011 revolution on Jan. 14, 2016. FETHI BELAID/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Democracy in Tunisia is in danger following a series of executive orders issued by President Kais Saied, the Congress Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa and Global Counterterrorism said yesterday.

This came during a virtual hearing titled “Tunisia: Examining the State of Democracy and Next Steps for US Policy” held with the participation of a number of committee members and political experts.

“We are deeply concerned about the measures taken by President Saied, despite the positive moves during the past weeks,” Committee Chairman, Congressman Ted Deutch said during the session, noting that a number of parliamentarians are still in detention on politically motivated charges.

He stressed Washington’s readiness to “support Tunisia’s democratic transition and the constitutional reform process.”.

On Tuesday, State Department spokesman Ned Price congratulated Tunisia on the formation of a new government, hoping for the establishment of an inclusive path for a speedy return to constitutional order.

Later yesterday evening, President Saied met with the US Ambassador to Tunisia, Donald Bloom, and conveyed Tunis’ “dissatisfaction” with Congress’ decision to discuss the situation in Tunisia.

On 25 July, Tunisian President Kais Saied cited Article 80 of the constitution to dismiss Prime Minister Hicham Mechichi, freeze the work of parliament for 30 days, lift the immunity of ministers, and appoint himself as head of the executive authority until the formation of a new government.

This comes after violent protests broke out in several Tunisian cities criticising the government’s handling of the economy and the coronavirus. Demonstrators had called for parliament to be dissolved.

The majority of the country’s political parties slammed the move as a “coup against the constitution” and the achievements of the 2011 revolution.

Saied appointed a prime minister on 29 September a new government has since been formed.

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