Tunisia’s male-dominated parliament relaunches with no political parties

By Natalia Román Morte

Tunis, Mar 12 (EFE).- The newly-elected parliament in Tunisia will convene on Monday for the first time since president Kais Saied suspended it 20 months ago with no political parties and fewer women, amid fears the assembly’s influence will be curbed by the government.

Saied froze parliament on July 25, 2021, stripped its members of their immunity from prosecution and sacked the prime minister, in a surprise move that he said complied with Article 80 of the Tunisian Constitution.

A year later, a controversial new constitution granting the former law professor further powers was passed in a referendum despite a low turnout.

The parliament, according to the constitution that Saied drafted himself, will be bicameral with a council of regional representatives, whose authority and voting system were revealed this week.

Stripped of its powers, the new 161-seat bicameral legislature will no longer be able to approve a government or table censure motions against it or the president.

“Even if opponents show up inside the parliament, everything necessary to coerce them will be there: they can be revoked if they do not comply with their electoral program and they can lose their immunity,” explains author Hatem Nafti, who examines the “Saiedist” political theory in his essay “Tunisia: Towards Authoritarian Populism?”

Meanwhile, the fact that only 25 women were elected to the parliament worries feminist organizations, which see it as a setback in the fight for women’s rights amid expectations that women will be isolated from political debate.

Political parties led by the Islamist Ennahda movement have also been excluded by Saied after holding seats for the last decade.

“For him, the mere idea of a party perverts the popular will and in 2019 when he came to power he said that he was not going to ban them but rather let them die a natural death. The act of joining a political party today is going to become an opposition thing,” says Nafti.

The legislature’s loss of legitimacy explains the significantly low turnout in the latest elections, with only 11% of the population casting their ballots.

After Saied dissolved municipal councils this week, the question now revolves around the presidential elections scheduled in 2024, which the opposition is preparing for despite the fact that many of its leaders are imprisoned for “plotting against state security.”EFE


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