US criticizes Tunisian president on electoral chief

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Tunisians raise national flags as they take to the streets of the capital Tunis to protest against their president on April 10, 2022 (AFP/FETHI BELAID) (FETHI BELAID)
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The United States on Tuesday criticized Tunisian President Kais Saied for giving himself the power to name the next election chief, urging respect for democratic norms.

"The United States is deeply concerned by the Tunisian president's decision to unilaterally restructure Tunisia's Independent High Authority for Elections," State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

Washington has "consistently communicated to Tunisian leaders the importance of upholding the independence of key democratic institutions and ensuring Tunisia returns to democratic governance," he said.

In a decree last week, Saied gave himself the authority to name three of the seven members of the commission, including its chief, ahead of a July referendum on constitutional reforms and legislative elections due in December.

Saied, who was elected in 2019, sacked the government last July.

President Joe Biden's administration, which has made democracy a key priority, had initially been cautious and held out hope for Saied.

But the Tunisian leader last month also dissolved parliament, dealing another blow to the political system in the birthplace of the Arab Spring.

sct/mlm

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