1005 GMT August 13, 2022
Monday’s referendum marked one year to the day that Saied froze Tunisia’s parliament and dismissed his government — a move derided by critics as “a coup” but celebrated by Tunisians who had grown exasperated with the country’s political elites and years of economic stagnation. In the year since then, Saied has given himself the power to rule by decree and has fired dozens of judges, decisions that have provoked a series of protests, AP reported.
The new Constitution gives the office of the president all executive powers and removes key checks and balances. The power of Tunisia’s judiciary and parliament would be greatly reduced.
Critics warn that Saied’s new political structure could pave the way to a new autocracy in the country that rose up against former autocratic strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 and kicked off the Arab Spring pro-democracy protests. Tunisia is the only nation to emerge with a democracy from those protests.
Saied says the changes are needed to eliminate corruption and “return the nation to the revolutionary path.”
After casting his vote in Tunis on Monday morning, Saied told the Associated Press that the referendum was a call to Tunisians everywhere “to partake in history, to create a new history.”
Saied rejected fears the Constitution would revive a dictatorship, saying that citizens were able to protest and express themselves freely.
“There is no dictatorship, as I said in the explanatory document on rights and freedoms: this Constitution protects (such freedoms), and the revolution is defended by a people who stand up to those who undermine it.”