Tunisian President Kais Saied on Thursday moved to dissolve the country’s elected municipal councils, seen as a key democratic gain after the 2011 revolt that sparked the Arab Spring.
Saied sacked the government in a 2021 power grab, and has since scrapped the post-revolution constitution, neutered parliament and seized far-reaching executive powers in what opponents say is a return to autocracy.
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In a video published overnight into Thursday, Saied said a bill would soon be examined to “dissolve all local council and replace them with special delegations.”
The mandate of some 350 sitting mayors and municipal councilors was to expire in late April, theoretically meaning an election would take place.
The current councils were the product of a 2018 election won by independent lists and the Ennahdha party - which has dominated Tunisian politics since the revolution and is Saied’s arch-enemy.
Many councils have since seen bitter internal power struggles and by-elections.
In the video Saied said the country would “continue to march towards victory,” before accusing his critics of “playing the victim.”
“Today they demonstrate freely and claim there is tyranny as they march under police protection,” he said, referring to recent anti-government protests during which the police was deployed.
More than 20 political figures have been arrested in the North African country in recent weeks, mainly outspoken opponents of Saied.
Rights group Amnesty International has labelled the arrests a “politically motivated witch hunt.”
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