Diplomatic pressure on Tunisia's President Saied increases

G7 calls for Tunisia's 'swift return to a constitutional order'

US Senators Chris Murphy and Jon Ossoff led a congressional delegation to Tunisia over the weekend and met President Kais Saied at Carthage Palace. Photo: Présidence Tunisie
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Pressure is mounting on Tunisian President Kais Saied from key allies to install a new government and reveal his intentions for the country, more than six weeks after he sacked the prime minister, froze parliament and assumed sole power in an attempt to lead the country out of political deadlock.

Ambassadors from the G7 nations in Tunisia issued a statement on Monday calling for “a swift return to a constitutional order, in which an elected parliament plays a significant role".

Shortly after Mr Saied extended the exceptional period indefinitely on August 23, he told the public: “The parliament itself is a threat to the state.”

The G7 statement, which also stressed the need for “inclusive dialogue about proposed constitutional and electoral reforms”, is part of a growing chorus of Western allies who are calling on Mr Saied to share his plan to right the country and get the government back on track.

At the weekend, Mr Saied met a US congressional delegation headed by Senators Chris Murphy and Jon Ossoff and assured them that “the exceptional measures taken on July 25, 2021 fall within the framework of full respect for the Constitution,” according to a statement issued by the Presidency.

The delegation urged a return to the democratic path and that any reforms be adopted through an inclusive process, including engagement with representatives of Tunisia’s political spectrum and members of civil society.

In a tweet after their meeting, Senator Murphy said the US’s “only interest is in protecting and advancing a healthy democracy and economy for Tunisians".

“We favour no party over another and we have zero interest in pushing one reform agenda over another. Those questions are for Tunisians to decide.”

The US delegation also met MPs and leaders of civil society organisations, who have largely been kept out of the conversations happening in the Carthage Palace. While several key parties and groups participated, the powerful General Tunisian Workers' Union, or UGTT, declined the invitation to meet the senators.

“Our Tunisian affair should be resolved only among Tunisians, UGTT union will not participate in the invitation of the American embassy”, UGTT spokesman Sami Tahri told Reuters.

Saida Ounissi, one of the MPs who joined the discussion, stressed that the conversation was not about interference, but about preserving a long-standing friendship with a key ally.

“None of us here is asking or expecting the United States to “intervene” in Tunisia,” she wrote in a tweet after the meeting. “To preserve Tunisia-USA relations is key for us. As it is to nourish and develop Tunisia's diplomacy with our neighbours and partners. As a country, we have no interest in isolation or exclusion.”

Updated: September 06, 2021, 5:54 PM