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Top secret Tunisian presidential document outlines plan for ‘constitutional dictatorship

Leaked document compiled by Kais Saied’s top advisors urges the president to seize control of the country

ByDavid Hearst, Areeb Ullah
23 May 2021

Kais Saied’s top advisors have urged the Tunisian president to seize control of the country from the elected government as it grapples with the coronavirus pandemic and mounting levels of debt.

The plan would be to lure Saied’s political rivals to the presidential palace and announce the coup in their presence while not allowing them to leave. Other top politicians and businessmen would be simultaneously arrested.

The plan is contained in a document passed to Middle East Eye, labelled “absolutely top secret” and dated 13 May.

It is addressed to Saied’s chief of staff Nadia Akacha and outlines how the president would enact a chapter of the constitution which – under a national emergency –  would give him complete control of the state.

Under the plan, leaked from Akacha’s private office, the president would call an urgent meeting of the National Security Council at his palace in Carthage, under the guise of the pandemic, the security situation and the state of the country’s public finances.

Saied would then declare a “constitutional dictatorship” which the authors of the document say is a tool for “concentrating all powers in the hand of the President of the Republic”.

Labelling the situation as a “national emergency,” the document states: “In such a situation it is the role of the President of the Republic to combine all powers in his grip so as for him to become the centre of authority that enables him to exclusively hold… all authorities that empower him.”

Saied would then ambush those present – which would include Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and Rached Ghannouchi, the speaker of parliament and leader of the Ennahda party – with the announcement that he would be enacting chapter 80 of the constitution which allows the president to seize powers in a national emergency.

The document states that Mechichi and Ghannouchi would not be allowed to leave the palace, and that the palace would be disconnected from the internet and all outside lines.

At that point, the president would make a television address to the nation in the presence of Mechichi and Ghannouchi to announce his coup.

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