Western states ask Tunisia to return to ‘democratic institutions’

Diplomatic mission heads of the G7 nations plus the EU call for a swift return to functioning democratic institutions with an elected parliament.

Demonstrators hold flags during a protest against Tunisian President Kais Saied's seizure of governing powers [File: Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters]

The envoys of seven Western countries plus the European Union urged Tunisia on Friday to respect “fundamental freedoms” and set a timeline for a return to democratic institutions.

Tunisia’s President Kais Saied on July 25 sacked the government, suspended parliament and seized wide-ranging powers, following months of economic and political turmoil worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.

Four and a half months later, he has yet to declare a clear timeline for his next steps, deepening the uncertainty hanging over the country’s battered economy and sparking fears for political freedoms in the birthplace of the 2011 Arab uprisings.

In a joint statement on Friday, diplomatic mission heads of the G7 nations plus the EU said they “strongly support the people of Tunisia in their pursuit of effective, democratic, and transparent governance”.

“We restate the importance of respect for all Tunisians’ fundamental freedoms, and inclusive and transparent engagement with all stakeholders, including diverse political and civil society voices,” they said.

They called for “a clear timeline allowing for a swift return to functioning democratic institutions, with an elected parliament playing a significant role”.

“This will help to ensure widespread and lasting support for Tunisia’s future progress. We stand ready to support Tunisia and its people in addressing the challenges ahead,” they added.

Saied’s July 25 power grab won support from many Tunisians tired of political parties seen as deeply corrupt and incapable of solving the country’s deep social and economic woes.

But he has since faced mass demonstrations and growing accusations that he is becoming a new autocrat.

Human rights groups have repeatedly warned against the trial of civilians in military courts.

Meanwhile, talks with international lenders over a fourth bailout package in a decade have stalled and worries are growing that the country could default on its sovereign debt.

Source: AFP