MEPs urge Josep Borrell to condemn Tunisia’s autocratic drift

MEPs urge Josep Borrell to condemn Tunisia’s autocratic drift

European lawmakers have asked the head of diplomacy of the European Union, Josep Borrell, to adopt a firmer position against the autocratic drift that Tunisia is experiencing. The call came following a hotly contested constitutional referendum in the North African country on Monday (July 25).

The Tunisian referendum seems destined to strengthen the power of its controversial president, Kais Saied.

A cross-party group of MEPs warned, in a letter seen by EURACTIV, that“One year after President Kais Saied’s coup d’etat, Tunisia is at a crossroads and must ensure that the last decade of democratic progress is not abandoned. »

MEPs added that the position taken so far by the EU’s diplomatic service “reflects a much weaker EU engagement, seen by some as tacit endorsement or support of President Saied’s status quo. »

After a massive boycott by the main opposition parties on Monday, 92.3% of voters voted ” yes “ to the new Constitution. However, the participation rate did not exceed 25%, according to a survey carried out by Sigma Conseil and broadcast by state television. Opposition parties also reported intimidation by security forces and police.

In a speech celebrating the result, Mr Saied said that “the rate would have been higher if the vote had taken place over two days”.

He also promised that “all those who have committed crimes against the country will be held accountable for their actions”.

The new Constitution is widely seen as an attempt to weaken the country’s democratic institutions and radically increase Mr Saied’s powers.

The new document would give the presidency sweeping powers to write laws, impose exceptional measures, appoint and dismiss ministers, judges and prime ministers.

Opposition parties and civil society groups say the new document, which replaced the constitution drawn up in the wake of the Arab Spring pro-democracy movement, was drafted without consulting them.

Tunisia’s parliament was suspended by Mr Saied last July and dissolved in March this year after a virtual session in which most lawmakers voted to revoke measures allowing the president to rule by decree.

At the same time, the main judicial body, the Superior Council of the Judiciary, was dissolved in February and 57 judges were dismissed by decree in June.

Since Mr Saied’s decision to suspend parliament, a number of opposition lawmakers and former ministers have been arrested and detained without charge or trial.

MEPs asked Mr Borrell to “Strongly condemn the latest actions of President Saied aimed at dismantling democracy and to engage in an enhanced dialogue with political actors and civil society, as well as with the Tunisian authorities”.

The European executive announced in March that it would maintain its financial support for Tunisia and lend 450 million euros in budgetary aid to the government. It also gave access to a European fund of 225 million euros to cover the increased costs of wheat and cereals following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

MEPs, however, said Brussels should make any future EU aid conditional “the restoration of all democratic institutions, respect for the separation of powers and the fact of basing constitutional reform on a national dialogue with all political and social actors. »

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