Keith Saeed said in a decree that he would replace most of the committee’s members, a move that would further cement his rule.

The Tunisian president has taken control of the country’s electoral commission, saying he will replace most of its members, a move that would cement his one-man rule and cast doubt on the integrity of the election.

In Friday’s decree, President Keith Saeed said he would select three of the nine existing members of the electoral commission to remain in office, on a new seven-member panel of three judges and an information technology expert. serve.

Judges will be selected by the Supreme Judicial Council, which he also unilaterally replaced this year in a move seen as undermining the independence of the judiciary.

The former law professor, who was elected in 2019 amid public outrage at the political class, has dissolved parliament and took control of the judiciary after taking executive power last year, saying he could rule by decree, which his opponents denounced as a coup. move.

Said, who said his actions were legal and needed to save Tunisia from the crisis, was rewriting the democratic constitution introduced after the 2011 revolution and said he would hold a referendum in July.

Most of Tunisia’s political parties oppose Said’s seizure of power, with some accusing him of orchestrating a coup against the constitution.

However, other parties supported Said’s decision given the political, economic and health crisis facing the North African country.

Saeed’s decree dealt a blow to the democratic gains of the country’s 2011 revolution and meant the institution was no longer independent, the head of the committee, Nabil Baffon, told Reuters.

“It has become the president’s committee,” he said.

Pakistan’s criticism of Saeed’s plans to hold a referendum and later parliamentary elections has angered Saeed, saying such votes can only be held within the framework of the existing constitution.

This week, referring to Syed’s expected announcement, Bafon said the president must not change the membership of the electoral commission or rewrite the electoral law by decree.

Meanwhile, Rached Ghannouchi, head of the Tunisian Ennahdha party, said Saeed’s takeover of the country’s Independent Electoral Commission means future elections “will lose all credibility”.

He told Reuters by phone that Saeed’s decree to replace committee members represented “another attempt to stifle the revolution.”

Although Said is focused on restructuring Tunisian politics, a looming economic crisis could derail his plans as the government struggles to finance its 2022 deficit and pay down debt.

This week, Tunisian negotiators resumed talks with the International Monetary Fund in the United States on a rescue package.

Major Western donors to Tunisia have urged Said to return to a democratic, constitutional path.