NATO PA President’s Statement on Tunisia’s 25 July Constitutional Referendum

27 July 2022

The President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA), Gerald E. Connolly (United States), issued the following statement in reaction to Tunisia’s constitutional referendum held on 25 July. 

“A year ago, Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed suspended parliament, which he later dissolved. 

The Assembly has since followed developments in Tunisia closely. 

I am gravely concerned that the referendum of 25 July and the new constitution will codify the democratic backsliding that has already taken place in Tunisia at the hands of President Kaïs Saïed.

President Saïed is on track to further erode existing democratic institutions, the rule of law, human rights, essential freedoms and the democracy Tunisians have been trying to build since 2011. 

When I travelled to Tunisia in 2018 with a delegation from the United States House Democracy Partnership, a bipartisan commission of the US House of Representatives that works directly with parliaments around the world to support the development of responsive legislative institutions, I recall the palpable optimism of the Tunisian people for institutional democratic values and processes.

From the dissolution of parliament to the constitutional drafting process to the referendum itself, transparency, inclusive participation and public dialogue has been lacking. Many Tunisian political parties, civil society organizations and media outlets have noted their serious concerns throughout. Less than one-third of eligible voters ended up casting a ballot on the referendum.

President Saïed must correct his course to deliver on the democratic ambitions of the Tunisian people instead of steering Tunisia towards the dark path of autocracy. Otherwise, it will become exceedingly difficult to address Tunisia’s challenges, to meet the expectations of the Tunisian people and to guarantee the fundamental rights of all Tunisians.

A functioning and legitimate parliament is an essential element to reestablishing the checks and balances necessary for a working democracy. The Assembly will closely follow the next steps taken by the government in Tunis ahead of the December parliamentary elections, in the hope that conditions allow for renewed interparliamentary cooperation with the NATO PA.”

The country’s Parliament, the Assembly of People's Representatives, has been a Parliamentary Observer in the NATO PA since 1996. Tunisia’s parliamentary delegation has regularly participated in Assembly activities, in particular in the work of the NATO PA Mediterranean and Middle East Special Group (GSM), a forum where parliamentarians from NATO countries and the Middle East and North Africa discuss political and security issues and pursue enhanced cooperation.

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