The legislation recognizes the steps President Khais Said has taken to undermine Tunisia’s democratic institutions.
Two US senators have introduced legislation to limit funding to Tunisia until it “restores checks and balances”.
The bill also calls for support for the North African country’s democratic institutions and authorizes the establishment of a democratic reform fund.
Republican Jim Risch of Idaho and Democrat Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the ranking member and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, respectively, introduced the Protect Tunisia Democracy Act on June 15, according to the committee’s website. a statement said.
“Tunisia emerged from the Jasmine Revolution and the Arab Spring as a rare example of a nascent and developing democracy. Unfortunately, Tunisian President Keith Saeed took several drastic actions that undermined Tunisia’s democratic institutions and consolidated power of the executive branch,” Risch said.
Saeed won the 2019 presidential election in a landslide but won a landslide power grab in July 2021, a move his opponents have dubbed a coup.
In Tunisia, home of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, police have arrested more than 20 opponents of the government since February, including former cabinet ministers, trade unionists and media figures.
In March, the European Parliament condemned Saeed’s “authoritarian tendencies” in a non-binding resolution, saying the detainees were “terrorists” involved in “conspiracies against national security.”
On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called on Tunisia to agree to IMF reforms to avoid falling off an “economic cliff” after the European Union proposed a major aid package.
On June 11, the European Union expressed its readiness to provide Tunisia with a package that includes up to $987 million in financial assistance.
“Despite the Biden administration’s announcement of aid cuts, stalled IMF lending and threats from Congress to explore conditional aid, President Saeed hasn’t changed course,” Risch said.
The debt-ridden North African country reached an agreement in principle with the International Monetary Fund of nearly $2 billion last October, but discussions have since stalled.
The IMF has called for legislation to restructure more than 100 state-owned companies that monopolize much of the economy and, in many cases, are heavily indebted.
But Saeed has repeatedly rejected what he calls the IMF’s “calling the shots” ahead of loan disbursements even as the country struggles with high inflation and debt estimated to be around 80 percent of its gross domestic product.
“This legislation will limit State Department funding to Tunisia until President Saeed ends the state of emergency and provide real economic incentives for meaningful democratic reform. Tunisia has been a longstanding partner of the United States but needs a change of course or it will There is a risk of further deterioration in U.S.-Turkey relations,” Risch said.
Until Saeed ends the state of emergency declared on July 25, 2021, the legislation caps Tunisian funding administered by the State Department at 25%, including security aid, but excluding funding from Tunisian civil society.
“The United States and Tunisia share a common interest in regional stability and economic opportunity, and I strongly support U.S. assistance to achieve the democratic aspirations and economic dignity of the Tunisian people,” Menendez said.
The legislation would authorize the allocation of $100 million per year for the 2024-2025 fiscal year to create a “Tunisian Democracy Support Fund”.
“This legislation preserves humanitarian and economic aid to Tunisian civil society while clarifying President Keith Saeed’s choice. He and his government can either end the state of emergency or put Tunisia back on the path to democracy. Or He can prevent America from supporting the people and government of Tunisia,” Menendez said.