An Islamic Democracy at Risk

Written by William Lucht – September 19, 2022

Current Tunisian President, Kais Saied, has removed the parliament, released dozens of judges, and under the new constitutional referendum, “both the parliament and judiciary are subordinate to the executive and the president.” Further, President Saied stated, “Their powers and competencies to act as a check on the executive were either weakened or removed altogether.” Largely successful democratic construction designed to allow for separation of power and enhance the government’s ability to defend from one-man rule has slowly been dissolved by Saied over time.

In response to many of Saied’s actions, The National Salvation Front, his opposition–comprised of Ennahdha, the Heart of Tunisia party, the Dignity Coalition, the Movement party, and Al-Amal party–diligently mobilizes strikes and protests and are now signaling they will boycott the upcoming December elections to replace the parliament dissolved by Saied. Opposition has stated that the dissolvement was unconstitutional and that any re-imagination and reinstitution of a parliament under Saied’s direction would be a sham and further consolidate his alleged authoritarian agenda. The new changes realign the country from a “hybrid parliamentary system to a hyper-presidential one, removing a number of checks and balances.”

While Saied retains some support among Tunisians who see him as dramatic change needed to combat the political elite, which they blame for a host of social and economic woes, continued poor economic realities embolden political adversaries’ rhetoric. To further exacerbate issues, Saied in his most recent law has greatly limited the power of parties. Under the new law, voters will choose candidates from parties directly, as individuals, rather than voting in support of a single party. While this may seem reminiscent of western democracies, the new law will reduce the authority of parties to content with the increasing presidential authority already being consolidated. A reduction of the lower chamber from 217 members to 161 members will take effect and it is still unclear how these members will be formally elected.   

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