TUNIS (Reuters) – Tunisia’s president said on Monday there would be a national dialogue on the country’s political system as he prepares to rewrite the constitution after establishing one-man rule, but he does not gave no details on how this would play out.
President Kais Saied has already held an online consultation to gauge public opinion on the new constitution and has promised to appoint a panel of lawyers to draft it and put it to a referendum in July.
His remarks seemed to indicate he was open to a more inclusive process — something his critics and other major players have long been calling for — but he didn’t say when or how that would happen or who would be invited to participate.
“The consultation is the first step of the national dialogue…the national dialogue will take place after reviewing the results of the consultation,” he said in a video recording posted online.
Saied’s critics accuse him of carrying out a coup last summer when he suspended the elected parliament and swept aside the democratic constitution to say he would rule by fiat until a new one is elected. in place.
He denies that accusation, saying his actions were necessary to save Tunisia from what he describes as a corrupt and selfish elite and a political system that has resulted in a decade of paralysis and stagnation since the 2011 revolution that ushered in the democracy.
Saied, a former constitutional lawyer, has shown little appetite for compromise since his landslide second-round victory as a political neophyte in 2019.
Critics saw the online consultation on the constitution as a way to circumvent dialogue with other key players in the country. When it ended on Sunday, only 500,000 Tunisians had participated out of a population of 12 million.
Meanwhile, a dire economy and the looming threat of national bankruptcy have added to the pressure on Saied, as he attempts to redesign the political system at a time when many Tunisians are more concerned about unemployment and rising prices. .
Ratings agency Fitch downgraded Tunisia’s sovereign debt to junk status on Friday, saying it believed the government would default on its loans.
To avoid a collapse in public finances, Tunisia probably needs an international bailout from the International Monetary Fund, but it should offer credible reforms supported by the entire political system, including the UGTT union.
Last week, the UGTT loudly rejected reforms it said had been proposed by the government and said it would take action if Saied tried to exclude it from the political process.
(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Angus McDowall and Andrew Heavens)