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Tunisian President enacts new decree taking control of electoral commission

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The President of Tunisia, Kais Saied, has enacted a decree giving him control of the country’s electoral commission, promising to replace most of its members in a move that will entrench his rule, casting doubt on the integrity of the body.

In the decree signed on Friday, Saied said he would only allow three of the existing nine members of the electoral commission to stay on, while he will appoint a new seven-member panel with three judges and an information technology specialist.

The judges, according to new decree, would be selected by the supreme judicial council, a body Saied unilaterally replaced earlier in the year, naming himself as the head of the commission in a move which was seen at the time as undermining the independence of the judiciary.

Head of the Tunisian electoral commission, Nabil Baffoun, while reacting to Saied’s decree, said it was a blow to the democratic gains of the country’s 2011 revolution and meant the body was no longer independent.

“It has become the president’s commission,” Baffoun said.

Also criticising the decree, Tunisia’s biggest political party, the Ennahda which has opposed Saied’s moves since last summer, said future elections will lose credibility.

“Any elections will lose all credibility with a body appointed by the president,” said Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi, speaker of the parliament said.

The Tunisian leader had already dismissed the parliament and taken control of the judiciary after assuming executive authority last summer. He had also said he could rule by decree in moves his opponents denounced as a coup.

The president, who says his actions were both legal and needed to save Tunisia from political crisis, is rewriting the democratic constitution introduced after the 2011 revolution and says he will put it to a referendum in July.

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Senegalese opposition condemns President Sall’s ‘slow’ election date announcement

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The opposition presidential contenders in Senegal have claimed that the government is taking too long to announce a new date for the poll, following a court ruling that declared a 10-month postponement to be illegal.

This occurs just a few days after President Macky Sall pledged to comply with the Constitutional Council’s position that the election be held as soon as feasible following the parliament’s resolution to reschedule the election—which was initially set for February 25—was overruled by the court.

The situation in one of the more stable democracies in coup-hit West Africa led to violent public protests and threats of authoritarian overreach, and Sall came under intense pressure both domestically and internationally to accept the council’s decision.

However, no new date has been announced, which has angered opposition candidates who want the election to happen before Sall’s term expires on April 2.

In a joint statement released late on Tuesday, sixteen out of the nineteen presidential candidates bemoaned the “inexplicable slowness” with which the council’s decision was implemented.

It was their contention that Sall’s tardy return to electoral duty demonstrated his reluctance to initiate a process that would result in a transfer of power. A request for response from the presidency was not answered.

During a news conference on Tuesday, Justice Minister Aïssata Tall Sall said that there was room for discussion over the expiration of Sall’s mandate on April 2.

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South Africa wants Israel’s ‘occupation’ of Palestinian territories declared illegal

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South Africa is back at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over Israel’s role in the ongoing Hamas war. On Tuesday, Johannesburg asked the World Court to issue a non-binding legal opinion that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories is illegal.

South Africa argued that the proclamation would help efforts to reach a settlement as its representative opened the second day of hearings at the court in the Hague.

Vusimuzi Madonsela, South Africa’s ambassador to the Netherlands told the judges that “a clear legal characterization of the nature of Israel’s regime over the Palestinian people can only assist in remedying the ongoing delay and achieving a just settlement.”

Palestinian delegates asked the U.N.’s top court on Monday to declare Israel’s occupation of their territory illegal, adding that the advisory opinion of the court might help bring about a durable peace and a two-state solution.

Israel sent a written statement claiming that an advisory opinion would be detrimental to reaching a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians, despite not being present at the hearings.

The most recent wave of violence in Gaza, which was sparked by Hamas’s attacks on Israel on October 7, has exacerbated the region’s long-standing grievances and harmed attempts to find a peaceful solution.

The ICJ’s fifteen-member panel was tasked with “occupation, settlement and annexation … including measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and from its adoption of related discriminatory legislation and measures.”

It is anticipated that the judges will take about half a year to respond to the request, which also asks them to evaluate the implications of the occupation’s legal standing.

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