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12.09.2021 Tunisia

Tunisia's president says necessary to amend constitution

By AFP
Tunisian President Kais Saied has announced plans to amend the constitution and form a new government.  By - (TUNISIAN PRESIDENCY/AFP/File)
LISTEN SEP 12, 2021
Tunisian President Kais Saied has announced plans to amend the constitution and form a new government. By - (TUNISIAN PRESIDENCY/AFP/File)

Tunisian President Kais Saied has announced plans to amend the constitution and form a new government months after he dismissed the prime minister and suspended parliament in moves his critics called a coup.

Speaking to two TV stations after an evening stroll through the heart of the capital on Saturday, Saied said he would form a new government "as soon as possible" after selecting "the people with the most integrity". But he declined to give a specific timeline.

Saied also said it was necessary to change the constitution.

"The Tunisian people rejected the constitution," he said, while adding that the charter is "not eternal".

"We can introduce amendments to the text," he said.

Elected in late 2019, the legal theorist and former law professor has billed himself as the ultimate interpreter of the constitution. He invoked that power on July 25 to fire the prime minister, freeze parliament and assume all executive powers.

The power grab came amid chronic legislative infighting that had crippled governance and was followed by a sweeping anti-corruption drive that has included detentions, travel bans and house arrests of politicians, businessmen and judicial officials.

Saied has yet to appoint a new government or reveal a roadmap towards normality, despite repeated demands by political parties.

His moves have been criticised by judges and opponents, in particular the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party, the largest bloc in parliament.

But some Tunisians, exasperated by their political class and its perceived corruption, impunity and failure to improve living standards more than a decade since the country's protests launched the Arab Spring, see them as a necessary evil.

The chants of "Dignity!" and "Work!" that filled the air during the revolution have again started to sound at demonstrations.

In images posted on the Tunisian presidency's Facebook page Saturday, Saied was seen walking down the capital's Bourguiba Avenue as a crowd sang the national anthem, before he stopped to speak with the TV channels.

Earlier that day on the same central thoroughfare, a man set himself on fire, later dying of his burns.

The act of self-immolation followed another just days before protesting living conditions and recalling the street vendor who burned himself alive on December 17, 2010 and launched both Tunisia's revolution and the Arab Spring.

Hailed as a rare democratic success story in the Middle East and North Africa, Tunisia was struggling with dire economic woes and the Covid-19 pandemic before being plunged into the latest political crisis.

Earlier this month, diplomats from G7 nations -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US -- called on Saied to return Tunisia to "a constitutional order" and urged him to convey a clear way forward.

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