Tunisia’s Saied reshuffles cabinet ahead of presidential election

Cairo, May 26 : Tunisian President Kais Saied has reshuffled his cabinet, months before presidential elections in the north African country.

Saied appointed a new interior minister, secretary of state for national security and minister of social affairs, the state news agency TAP reported on Sunday. The Tunisian presidential office, cited in the report, did not give a reason for the new appointments.

Tunisia was the only country that emerged from the wave of uprisings known as the Arab Spring with a stable democracy.

However, Saied has systematically expanded his power since taking office in 2019. He has introduced a controversial new constitution, dissolved parliament and dismissed the prime minister.

A number of prominent critics of his regime, including judges and leading opposition politicians, have been arrested.

Amid further arrests this month alleged to be politically motivated, the human rights organization Amnesty International has denounced an “unprecedented repressive crackdown” on human rights activists, lawyers, journalists and migrants in the country.

Demonstrators in Tunis recently demanded the release of activists and lawyers.

A date for this year’s presidential election has not yet been set but is expected in September or October. In view of government repression, however, there are significant doubts as to whether the election will be free and fair.

Despite Saied’s increasingly authoritarian leadership, the European Commission last year agreed to a controversial deal worth more than €1 billion ($1.1 billion) in aid for Tunis.

Around €67 million of the money was earmarked for controlling illegal migration. Tunisia is one of the main transit countries for refugees from Africa heading to Europe.

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