92-year-old Tunisian president wants to amend the constitution to increase his own powers

Tunisia’s president has escalated a dispute with the prime minister by calling for changes to the constitution to give the presidency more power.

Tunisia‚Äôs president, Beji Caid Essebsi, 92, wants more power ascribed to the president, stripping the parliament of most of its powers as he called for changes to the country’s constitution.

In 2014, Tunisia adopted a new constitution three years after the uprising that removed the long-serving autocratic president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. This significantly reduced the previously extensive power of the presidency and gave the prime minister and parliament more powers.

To mark Tunisia’s independence day on March 21, Essebsi in a televised speech noted that, “The president has no major functions and executive power is in the hands of the prime minister.” The president which controls defence and foreign policy under the new charter noted that “It would be better to think about amending some chapters of the constitution.”

Essebsi who was a former parliamentary speaker under Ben Ali became the President and dominant figure in 2014 but he began losing much of the influence in 2016 when Youssef Chahed became Prime Minister. Since then, tensions have been building up between the president and the prime minister. However, these tensions escalated in 2018 when Essebsi called on Chahed to resign.

Instead of heeding to the president’s call, the Prime Minister unveiled a new cabinet in November 2018 together with the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, to the anger of the president.

A parliamentary election is due in October and a presidential vote in November, however, Essebsi cannot wait for an additional seven months as he is calling for an overhaul of the Northern African country’s ruling charter.