Tunisia’s president on Thursday released an electoral law reducing, but not ending, the role of political parties in a reformed parliament that will have fewer powers under a constitution adopted in July.
Under the new law, voters will choose candidates in December. 17 elections individually rather than selecting a single party list – a change that will weaken party influence.
The unilateral changes are the latest President Kais Saied has made to Tunisia’s political system since he seized most power last summer in a move his enemies have called an anti-democratic coup. to establish the power of one man.
“We are going through a new stage in the history of Tunisia towards the sovereignty of the people after the previous fictitious elections,” Saied said during a cabinet meeting.
He said political parties were not excluded and the accusations were “lies and fabrications”.
Major parties across Tunisia’s political spectrum have already rejected the law, saying they would boycott any election under Saied’s new constitution, which dramatically expanded his powers and removed most checks on his actions.
The constitution was passed overwhelmingly in a referendum in which official figures showed just 30% of voters turned out – although opposition parties accused authorities of inflating even that low turnout .
The previous democratic constitution of 2014 enshrined a major role in parliament, giving it primary responsibility for forming governments, while the president had less direct power.
Saied’s new constitution instead brought the government directly under the president, while reducing the influence of a new two-chamber parliament.
The new lower house will only have 161 members, compared to 217 previously. Details of the second chamber, including how its members will be elected, have yet to be released.
The United States has repeatedly expressed concern over what it sees as democratic backsliding under Saied, a political independent who worked as a constitutional law professor before running for president in 2019.
He dismissed the criticism, calling it unacceptable interference in Tunisia’s internal affairs, and denied that his actions constituted a coup or that he would become a dictator.