What are the Most Prominent Features of the New Political System in Tunisia?

Reactions increase in the Tunisian political scene after Tunisian President Kais Saied has hinted at making amendments to the 2014 constitution in line with the current stage requirements. Experts’ expectations indicate that the amendment will include controversial points.

Observers believe that the amendments to the political system include suspending the constitution, forming an urgent legal committee to amend it and finally dissolving the House of Representatives, as well as forming an interim government to manage the country’s affairs and adopting a law for the upcoming legislative elections.

New Political System..

“I respect the 2014 constitution and its procedures, but amendments can be made so that it would respond to the people’s aspirations, without arranging a coup against our constitution, unlike what is being promoted,” Saied, the Tunisian President, says.  “This can be accomplished within the framework of preserving the sovereignty of people, ensuring their rights, expressing their will and living in dignity in a free homeland,” the President tells.

He considers that the people are tired of the constitution and the legal rules that they have been put in place, and that amendments must be made within the framework of the constitution. The President emphasizes that constitutions are not eternal, and amendments can be made so that they respond to the Tunisian people because sovereignty is for the people and they have the right to express their will.

The Tunisian President’s statements came seven weeks after declaring exceptional measures, suspending parliament, lifting immunity from his deputies and dismissing Hichem Mechichi, Prime Minister. His political opponents considered these measures a coup, however, he has neither appointed any new government so far nor issued any broader announcement of his long-term plans.

“There is a tendency to change the political system which cannot go on. Changing the system means changing the constitution through a referendum, perhaps. The referendum requires time and logistical preparation,” Oualid El Hajjam, advisor to the Tunisian president, says. “The features of the Tunisian president’s plan are in its final stages, and it is expected to be officially announced soon,” he confirms.

It is noteworthy that President Saied has reiterated on more than one occasion that he would not look back, showing his intention to make radical changes to the political system, and to dissolve parliament. It is widely expected to change the regime to a presidential system, in which the role of parliament is reduced.

After the 2011 uprising that launched the Arab Spring revolutions throughout the region, Tunisia has adopted a system in which the president and the prime minister share powers, and the government is accountable to the Assembly of the Representatives of the People (Parliament), according to Article 95 of the 2014 constitution in force.

Constitutional law experts believe that the move was expected by President Saied in order to activate the measures taken at the end of last July. The experts stress that there are loopholes in the 2014 constitution that have disrupted the course of political life and contributed to the spread of corruption in state institutions to serve the interests of the former regime.

Between Supporters and Opponents..

In turn, Nizar Jlidi, Tunisian political analyst, has considered that the road map that the Tunisian President will announce in few days will include basic files that would arrange the work mechanisms for the next stage and establish a new structure for the political system in the country. Jlidi explains that the first step will be to dissolve the current parliament, which has been frozen since President of the Republic’s decisions on July 25, by presidential decree.

The road map includes appointing an interim prime minister, forming a mini and temporary government, as well as submitting a new draft constitution at the end of October 2021. This road map will be in conjunction with forming a committee of experts to discuss and amend the final version of the new constitution at the end of November 2021.

“As reported by the roadmap, a new electoral law will be launched at the end of November 2021, a referendum on the new constitution will be implemented in January 2022, and finally legislative elections will be organized between March and April 2022, and afterwards retrieving the normal democratic life, with Tunisian government and institutions get back to their jobs,” Jlidi clarifies.

On the other hand, opponents of the Tunisian president believe that he pushed the country into a constitutional crisis and raised concerns about the democratic system’s future. Saied, however, confirms that his intervention is in accordance with the constitution and is necessary because of an emergency situation resulting from political paralysis, high rates of infection with the Corona virus and protests.

The Brotherhood-affiliated Ennahda Movement had announced earlier its categorical rejection of what it considered “attempts to push for options that violate the constitution’s rules.” As Ennahda sees, the 2014 constitution represented the basis of the political and social contract, enjoyed the consensus of most political parties and had broad popular approval. This constitution also represented the basis for the electoral legitimacy of all executive and legislative institutions in Tunisia.

Kais Saied, the law professor who was elected president at the end of 2019, had announced the activation of a constitutional chapter that authorizes him to take measures in case of “an imminent danger threatening the nation’s entity and the country’s security and stability.” On the twenty-third of last August, Saied extended the suspension of Parliament’s work “until further notice.”

Optimal Solution..

In addition, the Tunisia Forward Movement has considered that dissolving the Tunisian parliament is the most appropriate solution so that the country exit from its current political crisis. The movement has noted that the current situation also needs to amend the chapters of the 2014 constitution.

Yesterday, Sunday, the movement called in a statement to form a mini-government to deal with economic and social files according to a program that adopts temporary and medium-term measures. “The delay in forming a government with a well-defined rescue program will only exacerbate the economic and social conditions,” the movement considers.

According to Tunisia Forward Movement, the next government is required to expedite in resolving the cases of financial, administrative and political corruption, as well as terrorism files by adopting fair trials away from the logic of cure. Furthermore, the next government also has to issue a decree for a temporary organization of power, and amending the chapters of the 2014 constitution. “The decree must guarantee a social, democratic, republican system that establishes political stability and meets the people’s aspirations for dignity based on freedom and social justice, as well as a review of both the electoral and parties’ law in a way that ensures that the outlets are closed to suspicious funds and intensifies the penalties for perpetrators,” the movement points out.

In a new attempt by the Ennahda movement to catch up on the political developments that Tunisia is going through following Kais Saied’s decisions, Rached Ghannouchi, the movement’s leader, has expressed his hope that political actors would meet to launch a national dialogue under Kais Saied’s supervision in search of ways out of the crisis.

“Dialogue without exclusion is the appropriate incubator for all solutions, and the course of the state’s wheels cannot be straightened with no government and the Parliament being suspended,” Ghannouchi emphasized in press statements. He called to entrust corruption files to the Tunisian judiciary, away from political influences and directives and within the framework of Separation of powers.

Ghannouchi has confirmed that Ennahda movement bears part of the responsibility for the situation in Tunisia, given its size, location and role, but not in the way that is full of excessive accusations.

It is worthy mention that Ennahda movement has considered Saied’s decisions to freeze parliament and dissolve the government, as a coup against the constitution.

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