Tunisia President to dissolve local authorities in latest power grab.
Tunisia authoritarian president has said he will dissolve the country’s elected local authorities to further dismantle democratic institutions, just as doubts over a key IMF loan agreement of $1.9 billion have exacerbated his economic crisis.
Kais Saied has restructured the political system of the North African country to concentrate power in his hands since assuming power in 2021 when he suspended the parliament and the democratic constitution that was created following the 2011 movement against the dictatorship.
The new document, drafted by Saied, was adopted after a referendum last year when less than a third of voters voted. It was followed by the election of a new parliament this year with weak powers under the new rules it imposed.
“We will discuss the order to abolish municipalities and replace them with special councils,” Kais said in a video message. A third of Tunisia’s local councils are controlled by the moderate Islamist Nahda party, which was the largest bloc in parliament before the council was suspended.
In addition to attacks on institutions, Saied in recent weeks has increased his repression against suspected opponents with a series of arrests of politicians, activists, businessmen and the head of an independent radio station. This sparked a series of street protests in the capital Tunis.
Saied’s comments about immigrants in the country, which appear to be racist, caused the World Bank to suspend talks with Tunisia this week.
Saied claimed that there is a conspiracy to keep sub-Saharan Africans in the country and separate them from its Arab and Islamic ties. His words sparked fierce attacks against immigrants in Tunisia and led to criticism from the African Union.
“The safety and inclusion of migrants and minorities is part of our institution’s core values of inclusion, respect and anti-racism in all its forms,” the World Bank said after talks broke down.
Tunisia is sinking into an economic crisis as reforms needed to secure an IMF loan deal are being delayed. Saied offered lukewarm support for the deal, saying in December that the lender lacked a solution to Tunisia’s problems despite shortages of key commodities such as oil and sugar.