Tunisia’s president said on Monday there would be a national dialogue about the country’s political system as he moves to rewrite the constitution after establishing one-man rule, but he gave no details on how it would take place.
President Kais Saied has already held an online consultation to canvas public opinion about the new constitution, and has promised to name a panel of lawyers to draft it and put it to a referendum in July.
“Consultation is the first stage of national dialogue… the national dialogue will take place after considering the results of the consultation,” he said in a video recording released online.
He rejects that accusation, saying his actions were needed to save Tunisia from what he describes as a corrupt, self-serving elite and a political system that brought a decade of paralysis and stagnation since the 2011 revolution that introduced democracy.
His critics viewed the online consultation about the constitution as a means to bypass dialogue with the country’s other main players. When it ended on Sunday, only 500,000 Tunisians had taken part from a population of 12 million.
Meanwhile, a dire economy and the imminent threat of national bankruptcy have added to the pressure on Saied, as he attempts to redraw the political system at a moment when many Tunisians are more concerned by joblessness and rising prices.
Fitch ratings agency downgraded Tunisian sovereign debt to junk status on Friday, saying it believed the government would default on loans.
To avert a collapse in public finances, Tunisia likely requires an international rescue package from the International Monetary Fund but it would need to offer credible reforms backed across the political system, including by the UGTT labour union.
Last week the UGTT loudly rejected reforms it said had been proposed by the government and said it would take action if Saied tried to cut it out of the political process.