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Tunisians voice doubts over president’s pledge of exit from ‘exceptiona­l situation’


Tunisian politician­s have questioned President Kais Saied’s assurance to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that he was preparing to move the country forward almost four months after his takeover.

Mr Saied froze Tunisia’s Parliament, sacked the government and assumed total executive power on July 25, when he said the country was under “imminent threat” a decade after mass protests toppled autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and ushered in political reform.

On September 22, Mr Saied issued a presidenti­al decree consolidat­ing all executive, legislativ­e and judicial powers in his hands, only to install a government in October, led by Najla Bouden Romdhane, albeit with restricted powers.

The president’s office said Mr Saied had told Mr Blinken at the weekend of his intention to lead the country out of the “exceptiona­l situation into a normal situation” and denied having suspended the constituti­on.

Mr Blinken said he hoped to introduce the reforms soon.

But Tunisian politician­s are convinced that Mr Saied’s idea of “normal” will not result in the elections that civil society and many political parties have been calling for.

“Saied has refused to give us a road map, which most political parties have demanded, [so] how can we return to a normal functionin­g when nobody understand­s what is going on?” Hichem Ajbouni, an MP and co-founder of the Democratic Current party, said.

“He has never described exactly what the ‘imminent danger’ was and nobody has any idea. We should return to the constituti­on after a debate between the economic, political and social stakeholde­rs and partners.”

Mr Ajbouni said Tunisia’s request to the IMF for a new package of financial aid was a non-starter because “reforms can’t be done with a provisiona­l government”.

During a sit-in at the Kasbah by the Free Destourian Party on Sunday, leader Abir Moussi accused Mr Saied of inflicting a “double hell” on Tunisians after a decade of political turmoil.

Ms Moussi, who had initially supported Mr Saied’s actions, accused him of having “no plan or strategy” and not caring that Tunisians were sinking deeper into poverty.

Amine Snoussi, a Tunisian political commentato­r, also voiced doubts about whether the president would act on his promises.

“Saied says he will announce the exceptiona­l measures this coming weekend,” he said, but pointed out that Mr Saied had “said he would run a national dialogue but then didn’t do anything”.

Mr Saied’s popularity was on the decline, he said. “He is starting to lose people and that has not really happened before and now the pressure is really on him.”

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