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Tunisia’s Ennahda demands probe into ‘coup plot paper’

Published: Updated:

Tunisia’s Ennahda party demanded Tuesday a probe into a document purportedly drafted by advisers to President Kais Saied that details how he could perpetrate a constitutional coup.

The unverified paper, dismissed as a fake by the presidency, was published on Sunday by Middle East Eye under the headline “Top secret presidential document outlines plan for ‘constitutional dictatorship’.”

It is addressed to the president’s chief of staff Nadia Akacha and the London-based media outlet says it received the document through a leak from her private office.

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It details how Saied could call an emergency meeting of the National Security Council at the presidential palace, under the pretext of the coronavirus pandemic and spiraling public debt.

The president would, according to the document, declare a “national emergency” and, in the presence of the prime minister and speaker of parliament, invoke Article 80 of the constitution, allowing him to seize powers.

The premier and speaker would be barred from leaving the palace, which would be disconnected from the internet and all outside phone lines to facilitate the power grab.

Ennahda, which leads an unwieldy coalition government and has a poor relationship with the presidency, on Tuesday demanded an investigation.

In a statement, it “strongly condemned the content” of the five-page paper and the “dangerous proposals” made by its authors.

It called for a “serious and rapid” investigation that would examine all circumstances surrounding the creation of the document and to “reassure... the national public and international opinion.”

Tunisia’s presidency says the document was generated maliciously and has nothing to do with the presidency.

“This document has no basis and never existed,” Walid Hajjem, a diplomatic attache at the presidency, told Shems FM radio station.

“It is a poorly conceived piece of theatre,” he added.

Supporters of Saied have accused Ennahda of creating the document so as to tarnish the presidency’s image.

The document proposes designating the president’s security chief as interim interior minister.

It also advocates confining Ennahda luminaries and allied politicians to their homes.

Independent observers of Tunisian public life have likewise been skeptical about the document’s authenticity.

The Ennahdha-led coalition government has for months been at loggerheads with the president, an independent scholar elected in 2019.

He accuses lawmakers of corruption, while deputies have in turn accused him of seeking to extend presidential powers, amid his rejection of several parliamentary votes.

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