December 7, 2022

Biden officials meet with President Kais Saied of Tunisia, urge swift return to democracy, appointment of new Prime Minister

President Kais Saied of Tunisia taking the oath of office in October 2019. He has been locked in a power struggle with the prime minister and speaker of Parliament.Credit...Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters
President Kais Saied of Tunisia taking the oath of office in October 2019. He has been locked in a power struggle with the prime minister and speaker of Parliament.Credit...Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters

Senior U.S. officials met with President Kais Saied of Tunisia on Friday and delivered President Joseph R. Biden Jr’s call for a swift return to democracy in the north African country and the appointment of a new Prime Minister.

President Saied last month suspended parliament and sacked the Prime Minister following nationwide protests. The move was seen as a coup but the United States seemed to consider it as an opportunity to form a government that would be accepted by Tunisian people.

“Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer, joined by Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Joey Hood, traveled to Tunis and met today with President Kais Saied of Tunisia,” National Security Council Spokesperson Emily Horne said in a statement. “During the visit, he delivered a message from President Biden reaffirming his personal support, and that of the Biden-Harris Administration, for the Tunisian people and urging a swift return to the path of Tunisia’s parliamentary democracy.”

Horne added that Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Finer discussed with President Saied “the urgent need to appoint a prime minister designate who would form a capable government able to address the immediate economic and health crises facing Tunisia.”

“Empowering a new government to stabilize the economy will also create space for an inclusive dialogue about proposed constitutional and electoral reforms in response to the widely expressed demands of many Tunisians for improved living standards as well as honest, effective, and transparent governance,” Finer told Saied, according to Horne.

Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Finer also met with civil society leaders and conveyed U.S. support for civil society’s active participation in building a democratic and prosperous future for all Tunisians.

Defending democracy and promoting human rights around the world, including in Africa, are now at the center of President Biden’s foreign policy agenda.

President Joe Biden listens as he is introduced to deliver remarks on the “Build Back Better Agenda,” Wednesday, July 7, 2021, at McHenry County College in Crystal Lake, Illinois. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

On Wednesday, the White House announced that Mr. Biden, who has asserted that democracy is under threat from autocratic nations such as China and Russia, will be hosting a summit for democracy in December, and the State Department said the gathering will be “to reinforce United States commitment to placing democracy and human rights at the center of our foreign policy.”

“The summit for democracy reflects President Biden’s deeply held belief that in order to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges, democracies must come together, learn together, stand together, and act together,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters in Washington D.C. on Wednesday.

Department Spokesperson Ned Price holds the Daily Press Briefing at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on February 9, 2021. [State Department Photo by Freddie Everett

The White House announced on Wednesday that President Biden will host two summits. The first will be a virtual event on December 9th and 10th, 2021, while the second in-person summit will be held approximately a year later.

“Both summits will bring together established and emerging democracies, civil society, and the private sector to solicit innovative and bold commitments to defend against authoritarianism, address and fight corruption, and promote respect for human rights both at home and abroad,” Price said.

On who will be invited to the summit or recognized as a democracy, Price said the Biden administration has “reached out to a regionally diverse set of both well-established as well as emerging democracies whose progress and commitments will advance a more just and peaceful world.”

“Our goal in all of this in putting together the virtual summit for later this year is to be as inclusive as possible, and of course we have to do so within logistical constraints,” he said. “But we are, therefore, considering additional opportunities to ensure that even beyond this virtual gathering, all relevant voices and viewpoints can feed into the summit process. And we’ll continue working with summit participants and other governments around the world to – and let me just say, those other participants include nongovernmental participants, nongovernmental stakeholders, civil society, and other actors to address democratic backsliding, promote respect for human rights, defend against corruption both at home and abroad, whether that work occurs within or outside of the summit framework.”

Price added that while details about the summit will be made available in the coming weeks, the Biden administration sees it “as an opportunity to engage, listen, and speak honestly about the challenges that democracies face.”

“It’s an opportunity to work together with likeminded governments, civil society, and the private sector on meaningful new commitments and new initiatives and to cooperatively build a foundation for democratic renewal globally,” he said. “This is not just a forum for sharing thoughts. This is a forum for putting forward concrete ideas, concrete commitments. That is part of what we have solicited in our initial outreach to countries around the world, asking them to be bold, to be ambitious in terms of what they might be able to bring forward, and we look forward to having that discussion with participants in the coming weeks and several months.”


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