(Bloomberg) --

Tunisia’s president said he had introduced new rules for the current transitional period and that his delay in forming a new government was a calculated move to further expose those seeking to undermine the Arab Spring’s birthplace. 

Kais Saied, who upended democracy in Tunisia -- the nation’s one tangible accomplishment since the 2011 uprisings, didn’t specify what the new transitional regulations were, but said an electoral law would be drafted. 

Offering no balm to detractors, he said the current extraordinary measures, launched late July, would continue, including the suspension of parliament. Addressing criticism that he has yet to name a new premier or chart a course forward, Saied, speaking late Monday, said that he had intentionally delayed acting to allow the “last fig leaf” to fall from those who were trying to derail the country’s progress, according to the state-run TAP news agency. ~ 

Saied had triggered the confusion when he also fired his prime minister, raging against what he said was corruption across state institutions. The suspension of parliament effectively sidelined the moderate Islamist Ennahda Party, which many Tunisians blame for obstructing efforts to revive an economy that’s struggled since the 2011 ouster of longtime autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. 

Read also: Tunisia Union Warns of ‘Black Hole’ as President Digs In

While initially enjoying support for the move, Saied, a constitutional law professor elected on a broad anti-establishment platform, has faced growing unease at home and abroad in the absence of a clearly laid out exit strategy from what his detractors have dubbed a coup. 

Saied has repeatedly indicated that a constitutional change was in the offing -- a step that’s raised further concerns in the absence of a constitutional court that should have been involved in his initial decision to suspend parliament. But the president, whose speeches bear the hallmarks of a college lecture, also stresses that he has no intention of limiting freedoms -- only to root out corruption.

The announcement of the new rules means that Saied has, in effect, suspended the constitution and will focus on transitional steps to reorganize the state, constitutional law professor Mouna Krayyem was quoted as saying by Shems FM radio.

For many Tunisians, the lack of clarity has become increasingly troubling as the nation struggles with economic ills exacerbated by the Covid pandemic. Key among the concerns are stalled efforts to secure a new IMF program that seen as critical for winning investor confidence.

Saied spoke in Sidi Bouzid, ground zero for the Arab Spring uprisings. As he spoke, some shouted they were hungry, spotlighting the growing economic challenges in the country.

His comments came days after small protests against the delays erupted in the capital.


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