Tunisia to Vote on Constitution Seen as Threat to Democracy

The people of Tunisia will vote Monday on a constitution that would give President Kais Saied almost unchecked powers, a key moment in his plan to overhaul the political system in the birthplace of the Arab Spring.

The referendum takes place a year to the day after Saied sacked the government and suspended parliament in a decisive blow against the country’s often chaotic young democracy.

His opponents have called for a boycott, but while observers have predicted most Tunisians will snub the poll, few doubt the charter will pass.

“The biggest unknown in this referendum is the turnout and whether it will be low or very low,” said analyst Youssef Cherif.

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Those who vote yes “will do so either because they like the president or because they hate those who have governed Tunisia” since the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, he added.

The text aims to replace the mixed presidential-parliamentary system enshrined in a 2014 constitution, which saw Tunisia praised as the sole democracy to emerge from the 2011 Arab uprisings.

The leader of Saied’s “new republic” would have ultimate executive power and would appoint a government without the need for a confidence vote in parliament.

The president would also head the armed forces and appoint judges, who would be banned from striking.

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Saied’s rivals, including the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party that has dominated Tunisian politics since 2011, accuse him of dragging the country back to autocracy.

The process leading up to the referendum has also been widely criticised.


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