Tunisia’s Speaker Rached Ghannouchi has refused to suspend the parliament for another year, just three days after President Kais Saied announced the extension of a suspension until Tunisians vote for a replacement assembly in December 2022.

 

Ghannouci, also head of the Ennahdha party, expressed his “absolute rejection of suspending parliament for another year”, saying he “considers this procedure unconstitutional and illegal”.

The move “prolongs [Saied’s] one-man rule and deepens the political crisis in the country and its financial, economic and social consequences as well as isolating Tunisia internationally”, he said in a statement on his Facebook page.

He added that the only way out of the current crisis was “by the immediate cancellation of exceptional measures” announced by the president.

On December 13, President Saied said he would call a constitutional referendum next July and that parliamentary elections would follow in December.

In September this year, Saied brushed aside most of the 2014 democratic constitution to say he could rule by decree during a period of exceptional measures and promised dialogue on further changes.

Critics denounced his takeover as a coup but Saied has consistently defended the move as the only way to end governmental paralysis after years of political squabbling and economic stagnation, compounded by the coronavirus pandemic.

He named Najla Bouden Romdhane, a little-known university engineer who worked with the World Bank, as the country’s first female prime minister, nearly two months after dismissing Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi.

Saied, who has been a fierce critic of the North African country’s 2014 constitution, said a nationwide public consultation would take place from January 1 until March 20 to gather suggestions for constitutional and other reforms.

 

He said he would appoint a committee of experts to draft a new constitution, to be ready by June ahead of the referendum.

Saied’s intervention was largely cheered by Tunisians, who have accused the political class of doing little to create jobs and raise the living standards.

Ghannouchi has accused Saied of launching “a coup against the revolution and constitution” after the July move, which critics said was a big setback to the democratic gains won in the 2011 revolution.

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