Political crisis in Tunisia: President dismisses government
Tunisia’s President Kais Saied, in the presence of army generals, dismissed Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi on Monday night and suspended the work of parliament for 30 days. In addition, the immunity of all Members of Parliament was lifted. Saied also announced that he would initially take over executive duties himself alongside a new prime minister, as well as hold the office of attorney general in the future. Saied’s actions follow a day of sometimes violent protests in more than 20 Tunisian cities against mismanagement, corruption and the handling of the Corona-pandemic by the government and the strongest party in parliament, the Islamic conservative Ennahdha. Tunisia is currently experiencing a sharp rise in Corona infections, while the economic crisis in the country has already worsened in recent months. Against this backdrop, Saied’s assumption of power has met with broad support, especially among Tunisia’s young population, with tens of thousands cheering on the streets. The powerful trade union Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail (UGTT) also backed the president’s actions. Parliamentary Speaker Rachid Ghannouchi of the Ennahdha-party, however, called the action a coup d’état and received support from two other major parties in parliament. President Saied himself sees his actions as constitutional. He refers to Article 80 of the Tunisian constitution, which came into force in 2014, which authorises unspecified extraordinary measures in the case of an “imminent threat”. However, it is disputed whether the constitution, which has not yet been fully implemented, even justifies the president’s assumption of power. The Constitutional Court, which is necessary for such procedures, has not yet started its work. Regardless of this, Saied also dismissed the defence minister and the justice minister by decree on Monday afternoon. This was followed on Tuesday by further decrees suspending a long list of high-ranking government officials. On the same day, the Ennahdha-party gave in and declared its willingness to hold early parliamentary and presidential elections. Both Josep Borell, the EU‘s foreign affairs envoy, and Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s foreign minister, expressed concern about the recent events on Wednesday and called for an immediate return to the rule of law. After all, Tunisian democracy has so far been regarded internationally as a prime example of a successful democratic transition process after the Arab Spring in 2011. On Thursday, Saied appeared to respond to both national and international pressure by appointing Ridha Gharsallaoui as interior minister. When the post of prime minister will be filled, however, remained open for the time being. In the meantime, the UGTT announced that it was preparing a roadmap for further steps out of the political crisis.
Elections in Somalia postponed again
Somalia has once again postponed planned parliamentary and presidential elections. According to the latest plan, the election cycle was supposed to start on 25 July with the four-day voting of state delegates for the Somali upper house and end with the presidential election on 10 October. According to a member of the electoral commission, the election could not take place as planned because, on the one hand, the federal regions were not able to submit the lists of candidates in time and, on the other hand, no local committees could be set up to supervise the election. On Thursday, the elections in Jubbaland State could still start after the incumbent Head of State Ahmed Madobe published the list of candidates, but in the other four states of the country the start is still pending. The implementation of the election is also made more difficult by threats from the terrorist militia Al-Shabaab to discourage politicians from participating in the elections. Al-Shabaab has been trying to overthrow the government since 2007 and regularly attacks government and security facilities, but also the civilian population. Since the beginning of the year, Somalia has also been in a constitutional crisis, as in February of this year the incumbent President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as Farmaajo, and the heads of government of the five Somali states could not agree on regulations for the upcoming elections. As a result, President Farmaajo initially remained in office even after his term expired on 8 February. In April, the situation worsened when Farmaajo extended his presidency for another two years with the help of the lower house, but without including the upper house of parliament in the vote. After violent protests in the country and the threat of sanctions at the international level, a new election calendar was agreed upon in June. The extent to which this can now be followed is uncertain. According to a latest update, the elections for the lower house of parliament are to take place between 12 September and 2 October, but the date for the presidential election has not been confirmed here.
In other news?
Tunisian Ahmed Hafnaoui and Ivorian Ruth Gbagbi each secured a place on the podium at the Olympic Games and thus the first medals for the African continent in Tokyo. The first was the swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui, only 18 years old, who surprisingly won his first gold medal in the 400m freestyle last Sunday. He unexpectedly beat Australian Jack McLoughlin and US-American Kieran Smith with a personal best of 3:43.36 min. Ruth Gbagbi already won her first bronze medal in Taekwondo at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro 2016. Last Monday, the Ivorian defended her placing against Brazil’s Milena Titoneli to repeat her success. South Africa now leads the continental medal table with one gold and two silver medals, placing 24th overall.