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African Union offers hope for oppositionists seeking diplomatic support

The Arusha-based African Court rules against President Kaïs Saïed's draconian power grab

Tunisia's opposition leaders have been encouraged by a ruling by the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights, the African Union's top court, which stated that President Kaïs Saïed's presidential decrees were illegal and should be immediately nullified.

The ruling by the Arusha-based court on 22 September found the presidential decrees 'disproportionately disrupted the work of the government including that of elected institutions such as the House of People's Representatives' and ordered Tunisia to 'repeal the presidential decrees in force, as a measure of restitution' (AC Vol 63 No 14, Saïed ratchets up the autocracy).

The judgement, say leaders of the opposition coalition, should lead to much tougher criticism of President Saïed's regime and attacks on civil and political rights. The Tunisian government is legally bound by the court judgement but there is little prospect that it will respect the ruling.

The opposition coalition, led by the Islamist party Ennahda, the centrist Qalb Tounes, social democrat Tayyar, and Citizens against the Coup have been in Washington and Brussels to drum up support ahead of the December parliamentary elections, which they and almost all of Tunisia's political parties are boycotting (Dispatches, 28/9/22, President Saïed's election plan faces mass boycott challenge). 

They argue that there is no point in putting up candidates as the new constitution leaves parliament with no control over the executive and without the power to impeach the president.

Against the backdrop of a mass boycott, turnout is likely to be tiny. Citizens Against the Coup, the umbrella civil society group, says that turnout for the constitutional referendum was lower than 10%, far below the 30% officially stated.

Yet activists are disappointed and frustrated at the lack of international support, particularly from the European Commission which has continued to back financial Saïed's government financially and refraining from criticising it. The EU is not sending an observer mission for the December parliamentary elections. We hear the European Parliament is moving closer to adopting a resolution censuring the Saïed regime.

'We do not understand why we have not seen the same support for democracy from the west compared to Ukraine,' an Ennahda official told Africa Confidential.

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