Carter Center Urges Tunisia’s Parliament and Supreme Judicial Council to Swiftly Appoint Constitutional Court Members


TUNIS, TUNISIA (May 6, 2021) —  While the 2019 elections were successful in ensuring a peaceful transfer of power, the country’s newly elected officials have failed to address the country’s significant political, economic, and social challenges.

Yesterday’s vote to override the president’s veto and pass amendments to the law on the Constitutional Court was a promising step to reinvigorate the country’s democratic reform process. Now that the law establishing the voting mechanisms for the Constitutional Court has been passed, the parliament and the Supreme Judicial Council should move forward quickly to appoint the four members of the court allocated to each under the constitution. The new court will play a vital role in considering the constitutionality of laws and realigning the country’s legal framework with the 2014 Constitution, and it should begin its work as soon as possible.

Since the elections, political disputes in parliament and among the branches of government have hindered the country’s democratic transition, resulting in a political stalemate that has blocked progress on finding solutions to the country’s ongoing social and economic challenges that were at the root of Tunisia’s 2011 unrest.

Time is of the essence, and it is incumbent on all political forces to compromise and address urgent priorities. In addition to appointing the Constitutional Court members, The Carter Center urges Tunisian political leaders to cooperate in the appointment of ministers and immediately begin negotiations on the proposed national dialogue. Each of these priorities will require leaders to overcome their ideological and political differences for the good of the country and to engage in a meaningful dialogue in the spirit of finding a compromise.

Because of an inability to compromise, the parliament has failed to move forward not only on the appointment of members of the Constitutional Court but also on permanently establishing other constitutionally mandated independent bodies. These include the High Independent Authority for the Elections, the Audiovisual Communication Authority, the National Authority on Good Governance and Fight Against Corruption, the Authority on Human Rights, and the Authority for Sustainable Development and the Rights of Future Generations.

The need for the Constitutional Court has been highlighted by the current political dispute between the speaker of parliament, the president, and the prime minister over the president’s refusal to administer the oath of office to newly appointed ministers. The Temporary Authority on the Constitutionality of Laws rejected a request from the prime minister to give its opinion on the dispute, citing a lack of jurisdiction. The Temporary Authority said that the Constitutional Court is the only body with the mandate to rule on the dispute. This standoff has kept the newly appointed ministers from taking up their positions.

The essence of the dispute is the interpretation of Article 89 of the constitution, which concerns the procedure by which the government is nominated and approved. The prime minister nominated 11 new ministers, who were approved by parliament in separate votes on Jan. 26. Each of the newly nominated ministers received more than the required 109 votes. Article 89(5) states that once the government gains the confidence of the parliament, the president shall appoint the head of government and the members of the government and administer the oath of office. The president has refused to do so, as he objects to several of the nominated ministers because of allegations of conflicts of interest. 

The prime minister and the speaker of parliament interpret Article 89(5) to mean that the president has no choice but to swear in the ministers nominated by the prime minister and approved by parliament. The president insists that the language of the constitution does not mandate that he swear in the new ministers and has asked the prime minister to make new nominations to replace those ministers to whom he objects. Without a functioning court, such disputes among the branches of government remain unresolved, resulting in a political stalemate that further delays progress in addressing the pressing issues facing the country. In addition, the lack of a functioning court impedes the process of aligning Tunisian law with the constitution, thus denying citizens of the rights outlined therein.

More broadly, the failure of elected officials to compromise through meaningful discussion has led to a renewed call for a national dialogue as a way forward. However, because of the ongoing political disputes, talks have not begun on the agenda and modalities of any dialogue. Any structured dialogue should operate under a strict mandate with an expedited timeline and be inclusive, as the issues facing the country are urgent. It should involve all key stakeholders, including civil society.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused delays and disruptions to the normal functions of governments around the world. In Tunisia, it has contributed to an increasing social and economic crisis and highlighted the need for leadership, compromise, and political stability. Pursuing the common good in a pluralist democracy is not possible without compromise. Both individual members of parliament and the president took an oath to serve the nation and pursue the common good. This means changing their mindset from one of campaigning for office to one of governing in the best interest of the country and its citizens. The ultimate responsibility for finding common ground to move the country forward should lie with elected members of parliament.


مركز كارتر يحث البرلمان التونسي والمجلس الأعلى للقضاء على الإسراع في تعيين أعضاء المحكمة الدستورية

Contact: In Atlanta, Soyia Ellison, associate communications director,

In Tunis, Don Bisson, mission director,  

The Carter Center
Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope.

A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in over 80 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.