UNGA 2021: Democracy lives on in Tunisia, minister assures UN

Tunisia has been dogged by protests since President Saied consolidated near total power in July

Othman Jerandi, Tunisia's minister of foreign affairs, speaks at the UN General Assembly. EPA
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Tunisian Foreign Minister Othman Jerandi on Monday assured UN members that the country’s switch to democracy was “irreversible” despite continuing protests against a presidential power grab two months ago.

Addressing the UN in New York, Mr Jerandi said President Kais Saied had been forced to take “exceptional measures” when he assumed near total control over the country in a series of moves in July.

The president “had to interfere and take a series of exceptional resolutions and measures based on our constitution to put the country back on the right path towards democracy,” Mr Jerandi said in the UN assembly hall.

“We reaffirm that democracy in Tunisia is an irreversible option, an irreversible option to which we are committed.”

In July, Mr Saied decided to sack the country's prime minister, suspend Parliament - whose powers are now frozen - and assume executive authority, saying it was due to a national emergency. His critics have called it a coup.

Anger at economic stagnation, aggravated by the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed some 25,000 lives in Tunisia, helped drive apparently widespread support for Mr Saied's July 25 intervention.

But now he is under growing pressure to tackle the country’s economic woes after the political crisis endangered the democratic progress that Tunisians made after the 2011 revolution that triggered the Arab uprisings.

Mr Jerandi urged Tunisians to stick with the president.

“There is no way to establish a genuine democratic system without fighting corruption and ending impunity, which has exhausted and weakened our state and its institutions and judicial system,” Mr Jerandi said.

“Building a stable state where all citizens are treated equally is a prerequisite for a peaceful community, sustainable development and respect for human rights.”

Updated: September 27, 2021, 9:55 PM