Kais Saied takes control of Tunisia's electoral commission

President to replace members of one of the country's last independent bodies with appointments by decree

Tunisian then-presidential candidate Kais Saied is pictured at his campaign headquarters in Tunis, Tunisia September 17, 2019.  Reuters
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Tunisia's President Kais Saied seized control of the country's electoral commission on Friday, saying he would replace most of its members.

This move will entrench his one-man rule in the country and cast doubt on electoral integrity.

The Independent High Authority for Elections had been one of the last independent bodies in Tunisia. Changing its members by presidential decree is almost certain to create controversy over the credibility of any subsequent elections.

Mr Saied, who says his actions are both legal and needed to save Tunisia from a crisis, is rewriting the democratic constitution introduced after the 2011 uprising.

He says he will put this to a referendum in July — a year after he seized power by dissolving parliament.

In his decree on Friday, Mr Saied said he would select three of the existing nine members of the electoral commission to stay on, serving in a new seven-member panel with three judges and an information technology specialist.

The judges would be selected by the supreme judicial council, a body he also unilaterally replaced this year in a move seen as undermining the independence of the judiciary.

The commission's head, Nabil Baffoun, has angered Mr Saied by criticising his plans to hold a referendum and a later parliamentary election, saying such votes could only happen within the framework of the existing constitution.

This week, referring to Mr Saied's expected announcements, Mr Baffoun said the president was not allowed to change the membership of the electoral commission or to rewrite electoral laws by decree.

Updated: April 22, 2022, 2:25 PM