Home WORLD AFRICA Tunisians vote on much-criticized Constitution

Tunisians vote on much-criticized Constitution

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Tunisia, facing serious economic difficulties, sharpened by COVID and the war in Ukraine, on which it depends for its wheat imports, has also been very polarized since the president seized all power a year ago. , arguing that the country is ungovernable.

Participation is the main issue in the referendum, where the yes is likely to win, the major opposition parties, including the Islamist-inspired movement Ennahda, having called on their voters to abstain.

Monday is a public holiday and many Tunisians have made the bridge. A total of 13.6% – exactly 1.213 million – of the 9.3 million registered voters had voted by 3:30 p.m. local time, said Farouk Bouasker, president of the electoral authority (Isie).

Crowds increased in the morning, but decreased during the siesta periodhe said, saying he expected a notable increase, especially among young people who prefer to come at the end of the day.

The first results are expected tuesday afternoonsaid a spokesman for Isie, Mansri Tlili.

Monday morning, the crowd was higher than expected, according to AFP journalists.

We have high hopes for July 25. Tunisia will prosper from todaysaid Imed Hezzi, a 57-year-old waiter, showing a finger stained with blue ink, to avoid any fraud.

Mongia Aouanallah, a 62-year-old retiree, is waiting a better life, so that our children’s children live betterbecause everything is catastrophic.

A new republic

After voting, the President called to approve his Constitution for establish a new Republic based on true freedom, true justice and national dignity. Ennahda denounced statements that could guide the vote, representing referendum fraud.

This controversial new fundamental law, imposed by President Saïed, grants vast powers to the head of state, breaking with the parliamentary system in place since 2014.

The president appoints the head of government and the ministers and can dismiss them as he sees fit. He may submit to Parliament legislative texts which have priority. A second chamber will represent the regions, as a counterweight to the Assembly of Representatives [députés] current.

The opposition and many NGOs have denounced a Constitution tailor-made for Mr. Saïed, and the risk of an authoritarian drift of a president who is accountable to no one.

Sadok Belaïd, the jurist appointed by Mr. Saïed to draw up the new Constitution, disavowed the final text, believing that it could pave the way for a dictatorial regime.

The opposition called for a boycott of the poll, citing a illegal process and without consultation.

A solitary power

A complex character, President Saïed has exercised power in an increasingly solitary way for the past year.

Aged 64, he sees his overhaul of the Constitution as an extension of the heading correction initiated on July 25, 2021 when, citing political and economic blockages, he dismissed his Prime Minister and froze Parliament before dissolving it in March, jeopardizing the only democracy resulting from the Arab Spring.

The new text gives almost all powers to the president and dismantles all systems and institutions that can control him, said Monday Said Benarbia, regional director of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ). He gives him more powers than the 1959 Constitutiondeveloped under Habib Bourguiba, removing the separation of powers and establishing a judiciary subordinate to the executive.

None of the safeguards that could protect Tunisians from violations similar to the [régime] Ben Ali does not existaccording to Mr. Benarbia, convinced that the new Constitution codifies autocracy.

For analyst Youssef Cherif, spaces of freedom remain guaranteed, but the question of a return to a dictatorial regime similar to that of the former autocrat of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, could arise in the post-Kaïs Saïed period.

For most of the population, the priority is elsewhere: sluggish growth (around 3%), high unemployment [près de 40 % des jeunes]galloping inflation and the increase in the number of poor to 4 million people.

Tunisia, on the brink of default with a debt exceeding 100% of the GDPnegotiates a new loan with the IMF which has a good chance of being granted, but will require sacrifices in return (reduction of subsidies for basic products, in particular), likely to provoke social unrest.

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