Testifying to Congress, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken voiced concern regarding power-grabbing by President Kais Saied and said “at the very least” Tunisia needed to go ahead with parliamentary elections pledged by the end of the year.
“Tunisia had been a relative success story in the region, one that we long supported through a couple of administrations. I share your deep concern about the unilateral dissolution of the Parliament. I’ve spoken to President Saied myself a number of times on this. We are pressing for a transparent, inclusive to include political parties, labour, and civil society reform process. He’s committed to holding a referendum in July and parliamentary elections in December”,said the U.S diplomat.
“Ideally, that would have moved a lot faster. But at the very least, Tunisia needs to hold to that. They’ve had a consultative process, as you know, for the reform agenda of the Constitution. Very small percentage of eligible Tunisians have actually participated in that. It was online, and I think about six and a half percent of nations actually participated”.
“That does not Auger well for something that is really an inclusive process of reform. Also, we’ve seen the use of military courts to prosecute civilians, particularly for political speech. That’s something we’ve been pressing back against and infringements on civil society, on judicial independence. All of these factor into our assistance. And so part of what you have in the budget before you is an assistance plan that is calibrated on the realities that we face in Tunisia now”.
“But with the ability, if President saied moves the country back into a better track to provide additional support for Tunisia going forward. At the same time, I think the most important thing that they need to do is to make themselves fully eligible for support from international financial institutions. And again, what’s happened now has gotten them off track on that. So they have a tremendous crisis. They’ve got a direct and immediate budget crisis, and then they have a long term economic sustainability crisis”, adds the same source.
“The long term economic sustainability crisis is best met by working with the international financial institutions. Others potentially could provide some direct budgetary support, but honestly, that is dependent on the President moving the country to a better track. We’ve been urging that. We’ve been making clear that our support can be there, but we need to see what’s Tunisia returned to the track that it was on. So we’re looking at all of these things I just described as indicators of whether things are moving back on track.If so, our support can increase’, concluded Blinken.