WASHINGTON – Following news that Tunisian President Kais Saied had declared his intention to rule by decree and suspend parts of the constitution, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism, authored an op-ed in CT Mirror calling for the U.S. to reconsider our security assistance package to Tunisia. Murphy wrote in response to an op-ed by Haddiyyah Ali in the CT Mirror, calling on him and Sen. Richard Blumenthal to help protect democracy in Tunisia.
Earlier this month, Murphy led a Congressional delegation to Tunisia, where he spoke directly with President Saied and urged him to recommit Tunisia to democracy.
On Tunisia’s importance as one of the region’s only democracies, Murphy wrote: “Over the past ten years, Tunisia had emerged as a bright spot in the Middle East and North Africa. While Tunisians are understandably frustrated that economic progress has been slow, Tunisia’s democratic transition has served as an inspiration for nascent democracy movements in the region… A threat to democracy anywhere is a threat to democracy everywhere, and as such, it is important that the U.S. remain engaged when this precious system of government is undermined.”
On his meeting with President Saied, Murphy wrote: “In our meeting, I urged President Saied to swiftly end the state of emergency and I pressed him to outline his plan for returning the country to a representative democracy. I told him that concern was growing for Tunisia in Connecticut and across the United States, and that specifics on how he’d restore democracy would help allay those concerns from Tunisia’s partners, like the United States.”
“President Saied was quick to declare that his intention was not to overthrow democratic government and he stated unequivocally that his plan was to name a new Prime Minister and government, and begin the process of amending the county’s constitution to put in place a more effective, responsive government structure. However, he did not provide a timeline or any important details, and this week, President Saied did the opposite of what he promised our delegation by declaring his intention to rule by decree and suspending parts of the constitution,” Murphy continued.
Murphy concluded, “These steps contradict President Saied’s commitment to the Tunisian people to protect and support their democratic rights, and are not the way to solve the very real problems Tunisia is facing. We must continue to support the Tunisian people with aid, but until democracy is restored, we must reconsider our security assistance package to Tunisia.”
You can read the full op-ed here.