Statement on the recent anti-democratic actions in Tunisia 

October 18, 2021

The International Coalition for Democratic Renewal (ICDR) is deeply concerned about the recent anti-democratic actions and decisions of President Kais Saied of Tunisia.  On July 25, President Saied took a unilateral decision to “temporarily” close the elected parliament, shut down the government, and appoint himself as “chief prosecutor,” thus granting himself sole legislative, executive, and judicial control of the state.  This action was supported by the Tunisian military which moved quickly to shut down the parliament and the main offices of the government.  On Aug. 23, President Saied announced an “indefinite extension” to this “exceptional period,” in which he can rule by decree in violation of the Tunisian constitution and the values and principles of democracy.

Tunisia has been hailed as the only successful Arab democracy to emerge from “Arab Spring” uprisings of 2011. It has adopted one of the best and most liberal constitutions in the Arab world and has achieved many milestones in terms of the protection of human rights and basic freedoms, the conduct of free and fair elections with international monitoring, and the establishment of a parliamentary democracy with a system of checks and balances to guard against the abuse of power or the return of dictatorship. Regrettably, though, these achievements in the area of political development have not been accompanied by greater economic development, social justice, employment for young people, or reduction in widespread corruption. Stable democratic institutions are hard to build and maintain in the face of economic stagnation and pervasive corruption. The international community has a vital role to play in helping Tunisia’s democrats more effectively attack these problems, which have been exacerbated by the spread of the covid-19 pandemic.

The International Coalition for Democratic Renewal therefore resolves that:

1. Tunisia should restore the democratic process, re-open the parliament, and respect the laws and constitution of the country, which do not allow the president to dissolve the parliament or to rewrite the constitution.

2. The National Dialogue should be resumed to reform the political system, the electoral laws, the various laws and institutions on fighting corruption, and – if it chooses to do so democratically - to amend the constitution within the limits, boundaries and processes set forth in the laws and constitution of Tunisia, and through a respectful national dialogue that includes all major political parties and civil society organizations.

3. The Tunisian army should return to its barracks and stay out of politics, as it has always done for the past 65 years, and not take sides or get involved in this political crisis, which can only be solved through political dialogue and negotiation.

4. The world’s democracies, including the United States and the European Union and its member states, should insist that the Tunisian government end this “exceptional” detour, and they should condition future economic assistance on the restoration of democracy and the re-opening of the parliament.