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Two hundred days after the triggering of Article 80

9 mai 2022

Two hundred days after the triggering of Article 80

Through a quantitative and qualitative analysis, this bulletin, based on monitoring carried out by the Alliance for Security and Liberties, is intended to present a comprehensive view of the events occurring within two hundred days of the initiation of Article 80. This bulletin is focused primarily on the previous 100 days of political news in Tunisia, but presents cumulative data collected over the entire 200-day period.

OVERVIEW:

Two hundred days after President Kais Saied invoked Article 80, ASL’s previous hypotheses of a “break in continuity” and “erosion of the rule of law and a threat to freedoms” are becoming increasingly visible. By way of Decree 117, all executive and legislative powers have been concentrated in the hands of the President in an authoritarian nature, and this dynamic extends to the judiciary, with the replacement of the High Judicial Council with an interim council over which Saied holds the power of appointment and dismissal. 

Equally indicative of unilateralism in his decision-making, Saied has implemented a supplementary Finance Act, engaging in unclear relations with the IMF, and announced a financial ‘roadmap’ in December describing national consultations, an intention to draft constitutional reforms, and future legislative elections using a new electoral law that remains vague. Crucial questions remain: what is the democratic value of national consultations in which few Tunisians and even fewer Tunisian women are present? Who will have control over ‘synthesizing’ the results, and who will write the new constitution? Additionally contributing to alarm, new decrees regulating associations, intense repression of the January 14th protests, and threats against civil society actors, journalists, and the judiciary have further constrained civic space in the context of the changing political landscape.

IMPORTANT DATES REGARDING THE PROPOSED FINANCIAL ROADMAP:

    1. January 1st, 2022 to March 20th, 2022: Launch of the national consultation via a digital platform, followed by direct consultations in each delegation. Following the closing of the consultations, a commission will be tasked with examining the resulting proposals, which must be completed by the end of June, 2022.
  • July 25th: the draft of the constitutional reforms will be submitted to a referendum.
  • December 17th, 2022: elections will be held in accordance with the new electoral laws. Until those elections are held, ARP activity will remain frozen and all official decisions will be dependent on the presidential decrees.

The consequences of these approaching guidelines last far beyond the state of emergency in which they were defined. The absence of clarity around which institutions will hold the responsibility of the plan’s various stages, the lack of consultation with other civic and political actors, and the uncertainty of the future impact of these national consultations represent major causes for concern in this process.

National Consultations/Surveys:
Through the platform e-istichara.tn, national consultations in the form of surveys were made available January 15th, remaining open until March 20th. Tunisians over 16 years were instructed to answer thirty questions based on the following categories: politics/elections, economy, quality of life, sustainable development, and social affairs, with the topic of potential security sector reform notably absent. A few concerns regarding the format of this survey include the lack of clarity on how the results will be used, the issue of personal data protection and safety given it’s recording of citizen’s ID numbers at time of submission, and lack of accessibility based on unequal internet access, leading to an unrepresentative/disproportionate participation of Tunisian demographics.

Referendum:
The composition of the presidential commission and criteria for selecting the members that will be responsible for drafting proposed reforms remain unclear. The Independent High Authority for Elections (ISIE) stated they were not consulted on the proposed deadlines, leading to suspicion they may be excluded from the organization of the commission. The organization of the referendum already includes breaches in current electoral law, given that the parties represented in parliament are also participating in the referendum, and in order to be in accordance, the voters’ invitation and text of the referendum must also be available by May 25th.

Upcoming Laws Affecting Civil Society:

  1. Penal Reconciliation Act
    1. Granting a unilateral amnesty to any financial reconciliation applicant with a judicial file under examination, on the condition of reimbursing or investing the amount named in the dispute for regional development. Causes for concern: This act creates a judicial pole for reconciliation within the appeal court, representing major structural reform of the Judicial System, and it is unclear how the decree-law will address financial corruption cases, jeopardizing the transitional justice process and judicial accountability.
  1. Biometric National ID and Passport Draft Act
    1. Withdrawn after its presentation in 2016 and re-introduced in 2020, the intention to establish these new identification documents raises concern about respect for Tunisian’s personal data and security with no guarantee of protection, and potential usage of this data for surveillance purposes. The timing of this project suggests an instrumentalization of the state of emergency to pass this law.
  1. Draft of Decree-law affecting Association Status
    1. Containing new provisions increasing governmental discretion on the actions of associations, this decree would provide a legal framework severely hindering civil society’s ability to act independently in favor of citizen’s rights and freedoms.

Finances and IMF negotiations:
Despite the gravity of the economic and social repercussions of COVID-19, political reforms continue to take precedence. The adoption of the Finance Act 2022, without deliberation or debate, provides no budget for public investment in economic recovery and exacerbates budgetary conservatism in vital sectors, such as public health. It also aggravates social inequality through a policy of regressive taxation that targets the most deprived in favor of the wealthiest, which simultaneously weakens the country’s capacity to mobilize its resources. Finally, without consultation of the public, the government has also resumed negotiations with the IMF, which include a reduction of the wage bill, elimination of social assistance, and privatization of public enterprises, risking plunging Tunisia into a vicious cycle of debt and continued maintenance of an unsustainable economic model incapable of creating wealth.

Political and Institutional Landscape:
Several important events have marked Tunisia’s political landscape in the last one-hundred days. Firstly, on January 27th 2022, the Assembly of People’s Representatives held a virtual plenary session in the presence of 83 MPs. Widely criticized, it was boycotted by Ghazi Chaouachi of the Attayyar party on the basis that it was illegal. In addition, the head of the presidential cabinet Nadia Akacha, known to be the President’s most influential collaborator, announced her resignation from her post on January 24th, citing a ‘fundamental divergence in opinion’. This marks one of 13 departures from the presidency since Saied’s ascension to power in October 2019. Finally, during the night of February 5th, the president announced the intention to dissolve the High Judicial Council. The dissolution was then confirmed by the announced creation of a Provisional High Judicial Council, in which the president holds the power to appoint three magistrates to each council, and oppose appointments, promotions, or transfers of each judge, additionally preventing magistrates from striking.

Rights and Freedoms:

  1. Press/Media
    1. Press and media are facing increased barriers to freedom of information. These include restriction/lack of invitation to presidential ‘press conferences’, tightening ‘rules of government communication’ restricting the right to access information, and physical violence and arbitrary arrests of journalists from security forces during the Jan. 4th demonstrations. As the RSF summarizes: ‘Pluralism is being undermined and intimidation of journalists is becoming commonplace.’, and ‘the lack of direct relations between the palace team and journalists creates a climate conducive to misinformation’. While the articles in the 2014 Constitution relating to freedom of press and information are not theoretically repealed, the President has assumed the prerogative to enact laws governing information, the press, and publishing under Decree 117.

 

  1. Protest and Activist Repressions
    1. Early November 2021 public authority’s decision to reopen a landfill in Agareb triggered protests by residents and civil actors. Tensions quickly escalated with the police, and the results of the usage of excessive force and tear gas included the death of passer-by Adberrazek Lachheb, which remains unacknowledged by authorities. Following his death, the UGTT announced a general strike, calling for the definitive closure of the landfill, and after meeting with representatives of civil society on November 12th, the President admitted the problem of waste in governorates of the country and promised to open an investigation into Lachheb’s death.
    2. The January 14th demonstrations were also marked by numerous incidents of violence on the hands of security forces and violations of rights and freedoms, including arrests of demonstrators, assaults of journalists and confiscations of cell phones or cameras, and usage of water cannons and tear gas. This represents a disproportionate response to peaceful demonstrations and numerous human rights violations, particularly violation of the freedom of movement and manifestation, blockades of roads, and aggressive rhetoric previously used by Ennahda and its allies. It appears as though the Tunisian state is also instrumentalizing the context of the pandemic in order to repress public demonstrations and gatherings, using sanitary restrictions in a manner with clear political motives.

 

  1. Other Restrictions
  2. Military Trials Against Civilians
  3. Migrant Rights Violations

National/International Reactions:

  1. Tunisia
    1. Citizen Resistance
    2. Civil Coalition
    3. National Meeting for Salvation
    4. Democratic Front
    5. Social Democratic Trio Initiative
    6. Abir Moussi and the Free Destourian Party (PDL
    7. Support for Saied
  2. Abroad:
    1. European Diplomacy
    2. Italian Minister of Affairs
    3. United States/State Department
    4. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
    5. French Foreign Minister

In summary, the state of emergency, declared on July 25th, displays an increasingly authoritarian tendency in Saied’s presidency, with the increasing scope of executive authority and pronounced shift in security initiatives.

To view the full report in english, please click on this link: https://bit.ly/3KXapa4

Article written by Emmarosa Mills

 
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