Tunisia’s Kais Saied plans to dissolve municipalities in latest political shakeup

Move is latest of reforms leader says are needed to put country back on course

Tunisian President Kais Saied has been shaking up the political system, insisting reform is needed to revitalise the country. AFP
Powered by automated translation

Tunisia’s President Kais Saied is to issue a decree to dissolve the country’s municipalities and replace them with newly elected special councils.

The move is the latest in a series of changes he has said are needed to put the country back on track after political deadlock and a stagnating economy.

“Tunisia is living in a difficult financial situation, although we did not cause it at all,” Mr Saied said in an address shared on the Presidency’s Facebook page late on Wednesday.

“The battle we are leading by law against those who wreaked havoc in the country will continue with the same force.”

Mr Saied said the decree would also amend the existing electoral law for municipalities, as well as the rules for the country’s lower legislative chamber, the House of Regions and Districts.

The new councils will be elected, but under rules that he will write, Mr Saied said. He has previously called the existing councils "states within a state" and said they were "not neutral".

In the 2018 local elections, a third of municipal councils came under the control of Ennahda, an Islamist party that has been the most vocal critic of Mr Saied.

Elected municipal councils were introduced after the 2014 constitution called for decentralisation, a constitution that Mr Saied has since replaced.

A referendum with low turnout ratified changes to the new constitution championed by Mr Saied as a means of rebalancing power to put the country back on course.

The move placed more responsibility in the hands of the president at the expense of the judiciary and parliament.

The referendum came a year after Mr Saied sacked the government and suspended parliament in what rivals called a power grab.

Mr Saied’s move was initially welcomed by many who did not believe the system built after the overthrow of former leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 had delivered economic prosperity.

Many Tunisians were fed up with high inflation and unemployment, political turmoil and a system they felt had brought little improvement to their lives.

However, the turnout in the referendum was only 30.5 per cent.

Updated: March 09, 2023, 2:14 PM