Tunisian party concerned at president’s extension of emergency powers

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TUNIS – The biggest party in Tunisia’s parliament voiced concern on Tuesday at what it called the ambiguity surrounding the country’s future after the president indefinitely extended emergency measures announced a month ago.

The moderate Islamist Ennahda initially called President Kais Saied’s seizure of governing powers and freezing of parliament a coup, although its recent statements have only described his moves as a constitutional violation.

A month after Saied’s intervention, he has not appointed a new prime minister or government or announced what he plans to do next, amid widespread speculation that he plans to redraw the 2014 democratic constitution.

Late on Monday, the presidency said Saied was indefinitely extending the measures without giving further details, but added that he would give a speech in the coming days.

The constitutional crisis has erupted as the North African country struggles to deal with a dire economy and a looming threat to public finances a decade after the 2011 revolution that introduced democracy.

The United States and France, as well as Tunisian political parties and the powerful labour union, have urged Saied to quickly appoint a government and sketch out plans for the future.

But his intervention appears to have enjoyed widespread popular support.

During the past month, Saied has replaced senior officials in national and regional governments, the security agencies and other bodies.

On Tuesday, during a meeting with the trade minister posted as a video by the presidency, he justified extending his measures by attacking parliament.

“The existing political institutions and the way they are operating are a danger to the state. … Parliament itself is a danger to the state,” he said.

Ennahda’s leader, Rached Ghannouchi, is parliament speaker. The party has played a role in successive governments since the revolution.

When he announced his intervention on 25 July, Saied lifted the immunity of parliament members. Several of them, from parties that both back and oppose him, have since been detained or put under house arrest on various charges.

Ennahda called in its statement for an end to what it called the “abuse and violation of constitutional rights” of citizens through detentions and travel restrictions.

Reuters

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