Opposition voices silenced and an economic system on the brink: consultants say Tunisia is “wallowing in uncertainty” as President Kais Saied readies to ask the general public for his or her ideas on a brand new structure. The previous regulation professor, who on July 25 sacked the federal government, suspended parliament and seized wide-ranging powers, has lengthy referred to as for an overhaul of the nation’s dysfunctional post-revolution political system. On December 13, he laid out a roadmap for drafting a brand new structure, which is ready to grant extra powers to the manager department on the expense of the legislature within the small North African nation. The general public has been requested to ship in options by way of digital platforms from January 1 to March 20 forward of a referendum on the ensuing structure on July 25, 2022. Critics have stated the transfer underlines the “populist” strategy of the president, who received elections in 2019 with a landslide 73 p.c of votes. However Saied’s one-man campaign to rebuild Tunisia’s damaged political buildings has sparked accusations that he’s establishing a brand new autocracy within the birthplace of the Arab Spring uprisings. Rights teams have pointed to army trials of opposition figures on fees akin to “insulting the president”. The accusations come not simply from his nemesis, the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha social gathering that dominated the suspended meeting, but in addition from the highly effective UGTT commerce union. “The nation is wallowing in political uncertainty, even after Saied introduced his roadmap, which doesn’t appear to have reassured companions both domestically or internationally,” stated analyst Hamza Meddeb. “There are various questions marks over the reliability of this course of,” Meddeb stated. “We’ve got by no means tried this sort of referendum in Tunisia and we don’t know the way the president is aiming to organise these consultations.” – ‘Repression in disguise’ – Meddeb stated the consultations will start “amid socio-economic unrest, with questions relating to freedoms” and what he described as “repression in disguise”. Saied’s July energy seize got here with Tunisia engulfed in a political and financial disaster exacerbated by mounting coronavirus instances. His transfer was initially backed by some Tunisians who had been uninterested in a political elite considered as corrupt and incapable of resolving the nation’s issues. On Tuesday, the debt-ridden nation unveiled a 2022 price range that can see it borrow nearly $7 billion, because it seeks to stimulate an economic system tormented by 18 p.c unemployment. Authorities are additionally hoping to succeed in a bailout cope with the Worldwide Financial Fund. However because the administration grapples with deep financial woes, it has additionally clamped down on rights. On December 24, activist and former MP Bochra Belhaj Hmida was sentenced to 6 months in jail — a verdict that sparked questions because it got here days after she criticised the president. “Since July 25, there’s a single establishment and a single particular person deciding the way forward for this nation,” she advised AFP. “There’s nothing to counsel that there will likely be hope.” -‘Slippery slope’- Hmida isn’t the one Saied critic to have been prosecuted after publicly criticising the president. Maybe probably the most distinguished is exiled former president Moncef Marzouki, who was sentenced in absentia to 4 years in jail on December 22 for “undermining the safety of the state from overseas” after launching blistering public criticism towards Saied. “All these hasty trials towards important voices clearly present that the judiciary is sadly within the palms of the manager,” Meddeb stated. Rights teams have repeatedly warned of the risk to freedom of speech in Tunisia since July 25. Human Rights Watch stated in December that Tunisian authorities are utilizing “repressive” dictatorship-era legal guidelines to snuff out criticism of Saied. The journalists’ union additionally has warned of an “imminent hazard to freedom of the press, media and expression” since Saied’s energy seize. On December 23, a gaggle of distinguished anti-Saied figures below the banner “Residents towards the Coup” launched a starvation strike towards what they name “an entire abolition of freedoms”. The group referred to as for a boycott of the general public session pushed by Saied, accusing him of looking for to “conceal his coup”. “Tunisia is on a slippery slope and we are able to count on excessive tensions,” Meddeb stated.