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Tunisian President Kais Saied dissolved the country’s municipal councils this week, a move critics say is another step toward dismantling the North African country’s democratic gains following the 2011 revolution, Africanews reported.

The dissolution has come more than a month before the mandates of 350 mayors and municipal councilors were set to expire. Local elections were then to follow.

Saied said municipalities will be replaced by “special councils,” which will be also elected but under new rules that the president will write, according to Middle East Monitor.

In the 2018 municipal elections, one-third of municipal councils came under the control of Ennahda, an Islamist party that has been the most vocal critic of Saied. The president had previously called the councils “states within a state,” adding that they were “not neutral.”

Elected municipal councils were introduced after the 2014 constitution called for decentralization. However, Saied has replaced that constitution with one he wrote himself. It was adopted last year after a referendum with an unusually low turnout.

The move to eviscerate the municipal councils is the latest by Saied to concentrate power in the presidency. Since 2021, the former law professor has been ruling by decree after dissolving parliament and implementing “emergency measures” that opposition parties have described as an undemocratic “coup against the constitution.”

Saied has rejected the accusations, countering that the moves were legal and necessary to save Tunisia from years of turmoil at the hands of a corrupt, self-serving political elite.

Last month, Tunisian police arrested prominent Saied critics and opposition activists, including senior Ennahda members, whom the president labeled criminals, traitors, and terrorists in the first major crackdown on dissent against his authority.

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