Tunisia leaders fight over command of country's security forces

Tunisia president, prime minister fight over leadership of country's security forces
2 min read
09 May, 2021
Tunisia is embroiled in a constitutional crisis as the country's prime minister and president argue over who commands the country's security forces.
Opponents accuse President Kais Saied of having 'authoritarian tendencies' [Getty]
Tunisia's often-clashing president and prime minister are now quarelling over the leadership of the country's security forces in the latest saga of an ongoing constitutional crisis.

The Ennahda movement, which backs Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, has accused President Kais Saied of undermining democracy and having a "tendency towards individual rule".

The moderate Islamist group - Tunisia's largest party - is likely to bring up these concerns again in the coming days, The New Arab's Arabic-language service has reported, as Saied attempts to take control of the country's security forces.

In a video published online late on Saturday, President Saied was shown eating dinner with senior interior ministry officials.

The president reitirated a claim he previously made last month, telling the interior ministry officials his role as commander of Tunisia's armed forces also extended over the security forces.

"You face a lot of pressures... And whoever of you faces any pressure, let him know that I will stand with you until we face them," Saied told the interior ministry figures. 

The meeting did not include Tunisia's acting interior minister, Prime Minsiter Mechichi, who has temporarily taken over the portfolio since President Saied refused to approve a reshuffle by the prime minister earlier this year.

Saied, formerly a constituional law professor, has provoked a crisis with his interpretation of the country's consitution that he says gives the president the right to the final say over cabinet appointments.

The president also claims the constitution, which was introduced three years after Tunisia's 2011 revolution, grants him authority over the security forces.

Most believe the interior ministry, and by extension the prime minister, have authority over the internal security forces.

The president has opposed a parliamentary bid to establish a constitutional court to mediate the crisis and other constitutional disputes.

President Saied made similar claims over the security forces last month, prompting Prime Minister Mechichi to speak out against "individual and odd interpretations" of the consitution.

"Let this matter be clear to all Tunisians... I do not intend to monopolise these forces, but the constitution must be respected," Saied said.

Ennahda, which is led by Parliament Speaker Rached Ghannouchi, accused the president of having an "authoritarian disposition" and attempting to "dismantle" the constitution.

The opposition Democratic Progressive Party accused Saied of launching a "soft coup".

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