Seven weeks after he sacked the Parliament and the country’s Prime minister, Tunisia’s President Kais Saied on Saturday indicated plans were under way to change the country’s constitution, but said he would only do so within existing framework of the constitution.
In a national broadcast from a central Tunis boulevard, Saied said he respected the 2014 democratic constitution but that it was not eternal and could be amended.
“Amendments must be made within the framework of the constitution,” he said.
One of Saied’s advisers explained that the president was planning to suspend the constitution and offer an amended version via a referendum. This has been rejected by the opposition, other political parties and the powerful UGTT labour union.
Saied’s intervention drew widespread support after years of political paralysis. It however, thrust Tunisia into crisis a decade after it rejected autocracy and embraced democracy in the revolution that triggered the Arab Spring.
Political leaders have complained about the constitution since it was agreed in 2014, calling for it to be changed to either a more directly presidential, or a more directly parliamentary, system.
There are growing concerns from national, continent-wide observers and development partners over political development under President Saied’s watch and his intentions since his July 25 announcement that he was sacking the prime minister and suspending parliament.
Although he indefinitely extended the measures after a month, he has not reconstitute a new government or made any clear declaration of his long-term intentions, as Tunisia struggles to confront a rolling economic crisis.
Legal scholars and constitutional lawyers have given differing opinions over the legality of the President’s action by citing emergency measures in the constitution.
Saied also indicated on Saturday he was close to naming a new government. Ambassadors from the Group of Seven advanced economies this week urged him to quickly do so and return to “a constitutional order, in which an elected parliament plays a significant role.”
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