In a move that had been expected for months, Tunisian President Kais Saied dismissed the prime minister and froze parliament on July 25, 2021, after declaring a "state of imminent danger" as stipulated in the new Tunisian constitution (2014). President Saied’s decisions came in the wake of widespread popular protests in the country on Republic Day and in the midst of an unprecedented wave of the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the country.
This paper examines the dimensions of this radical step taken by the Tunisian President, the positions of internal and foreign actors towards it, and its possible implications for the country's political landscape.
Following an emergency meeting with top military and security brass, Tunisian President Kais Saied announced in a speech to the nation broadcast on state television the activation of Article 80 of the constitution, adding to his powers the presidency of the public prosecution. Shortly afterward, the Tunisian presidency office issued a presidential order that included new decisions for President Said, including the following:
The Tunisian presidency office said that President Said had consulted with Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and Speaker of the Assembly of the People's Representatives, Rached Ghannouchi, in accordance with Article 80 of the Constitution, which regulates exceptional procedures for a state of "imminent danger." This article stipulates the following: “In the event of an imminent danger threatening the nation's institutions or the security or independence of the country, and hampering the normal functioning of the state, the President of the Republic may take any measures necessitated by the exceptional circumstances, after consultation with the Head of Government and the Speaker of the Assembly of the Representatives of the People and informing the President of the Constitutional Court. The President shall announce the measures in a statement to the people." However, the second section of this article indicates that “The measures shall guarantee, as soon as possible, a return to the normal functioning of state institutions and services. The Assembly of the Representatives of the People shall be deemed to be in a state of continuous session throughout such a period. In this situation, the President of the Republic cannot dissolve the Assembly of the Representatives of the People and a motion of censure against the government cannot be presented. Thirty days after the entry into force of these measures, and at any time thereafter, the Speaker of the Assembly of the Representatives of the People or thirty of the members thereof shall be entitled to apply to the Constitutional Court with a view to verifying whether or not the circumstances remain exceptional.”
However, it seems that the Tunisian president has overstepped his authority as president when he enforced Article 80. He decided to freeze the parliament, taking advantage of the absence of the Constitutional Court, which has the powers to interpret constitutional articles. In the absence of this institution, the president shall have the absolute authority for constitutional interpretation.
Local and International Reactions
The reactions of Tunisian political actors to the radical step taken by President Kais Saied varied, according to each party's position on power:
Internationally, positions were issued by the neighboring countries in the Maghreb, the European neighborhood, and Turkey, some of which were characterized by caution, while others were direct and ranged between bias and a call for dialogue:
Although President Kais Saied has so far issued limited decrees, it seems that he will issue other decrees and decisions in the coming hours. This makes it difficult to anticipate the trajectory of the political crisis that the country is going through, but we can expect two possible paths that Tunisia may pass through in in the future:
But regardless of any developments, it is certain that President Qais Saeed will go to lay hands on the executive branch by appointing a new prime minister in the coming hours and seeking the assistance of the public prosecution through changes at the head of the Ministry of Justice. It is also expected that judicial files relating to the political class, especially some deputies, will be opened after the Ennahda movement and its allies have controlled this vital judicial system for years.
 President Kais Saied chairs an emergency meeting with military and security commanders. https://www.facebook.com/Presidence.tn/posts/4462323937158962
 A presidential order dismissing key ministers. https://www.facebook.com/Presidence.tn/posts/4464552766936079
 Article 80 of the Tunisian constitution. https://anc.majles.marsad.tn/uploads/documents/TnConstit_final_1.pdf
 Labor Union calls for the exceptional measures taken by the president to be accompanied by a set of constitutional guarantees. https://bit.ly/3y9c6M5
 Supporters of Tunisian president celebrate government ousting with cheers, fireworks. https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/supporters-tunisian-president-celebrate-government-ousting-with-cheers-fireworks-2021-07-26/
 A statement from the Presidency of the Algerian Republic. https://www.facebook.com/AlgerianPresidency/posts/351631959753029
 Al-Mishri in response to Tunisia’s developments: We reject “coups” against elected bodies, Anadolu Agency, July 26, 2021. https://bit.ly/3kZf8Ps
 Haftar describes what is happening in Tunisia as an "uprising", Russia Today, July 26, 2021. https://bit.ly/370LaSL
 Turkish presidential spokesman condemns the suspension of democracy in Tunisia, Anadolu Agency, July 26, 2021. https://bit.ly/3x7PVEC
 The European Union calls on all Tunisian parties to respect the constitution and the rule of law. https://bit.ly/3iSo1r4
 Washington: We do not consider what happened in Tunisia to be a coup, Al Ain News, July 26, 2021. https://al-ain.com/article/1627320288
 Crisis in Tunisia: Washington urges President Kais Saied to “respect democracy and engage in dialogue with political parties,” BBC, 27 July 2021. https://www.bbc.com/arabic/middleeast-57979957
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