Tunisia to vote on constitutional referendum

Tunisia constitutional referendum
Tunisia will today vote on a constitutional referendum to expand presidential powers and limit those of parliament - Photo: AFP Photo/HO/Presidency Press Service
Tunisia constitutional referendum
Tunisia will today vote on a constitutional referendum to expand presidential powers and limit those of parliament – Photo: AFP Photo/HO/Presidency Press Service

Campaigning will begin today in Tunisia ahead of the country’s July 25 referendum on a new constitution.

Drafted by President Kais Saied, the new constitution expands his own powers while limiting those of parliament. Notably, the new constitution will remove the right of judges, police officers, the army and more to go on strike and will also drop Islam as the country’s official religion. Parties from across the Tunisian political spectrum united against the new draft.

In July 2021, Saied dismissed his government and suspended parliament in a move opponents amount to a self-staged coup. Doing so triggered Tunisia’s worst political crisis since the 2011 revolution that initiated the wider Arab Spring–Saied’s proposed constitution is criticized as a further move towards one-man rule and a weakening of democratic institutions.

Expect Saied’s new constitution to pass. Although nearly 80% of Tunisians registered to vote in July’s referendum, parties opposed to the new draft are encouraging supporters to boycott. Thus, the new constitution is likely to be approved, but by a relative minority of actual voters. While the constitution maintains certain rights–including freedom of speech and to peacefully assemble–it’s likely to be criticized by other democracies as a slide towards authoritarianism.

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