Tunisians took to the streets before the constitutional referendum

Tunisians took to the streets this weekend to protest Monday’s constitutional referendum, which would give more power to the president.

Hundreds of people gathered in Tunisia on Saturday to demand the resignation of President Kais Syed before Tunisians on Monday vote on a draft constitution that would reduce the role of parliament and the judiciary and remove most restrictions on his power.

The date for the referendum comes exactly one year after President Syed ousted the government and froze parliament in a major blow to Tunisia’s fledgling democracy.

The vote is the latest step in what Syed’s opponents are calling the march towards one-man rule, as he opposed elected officials a year ago in what has been called a coup.

The demonstrators, waving red and white Tunisian flags, chanted ‘get out’ and ‘people want Qais Syed down; people want the fall of the constitution” at an event on Saturday organized by the opposition National Salvation Front (FSN). union.

There were large numbers of police along the roads, but there were no reports of violence.

One protester, Mohamed Gonani, feared the change could create a presidency that was too strong.

“The essence of the constitution is to ensure a balance of power, but this [new] The constitution gives the president broad powers and does not provide for a mechanism for impeachment or reprimand,” he said.

During a separate Friday night protest organized by civil society groups and smaller political parties, police used sticks and pepper spray to disperse demonstrators, arresting several of them.

Since last year’s power grab, criticism of the president has grown louder, although divisions among the opposition have prevented them from forming a clear stance against Said and mobilizing street protests.

Some critics, such as Samia Abbow, head of the Attayar party, initially supported the president in dissolving parliament but now oppose his proposed constitutional changes.

“I was for positive changes, for the thieves and mafia who stole the country to be called to account. I was for it,” he told Euronews. “But September 22 [the date Saied issued a decree granting him full presidential power]we saw its true nature,” he said.

Said’s seizure of power in parliament last July came after years of political paralysis and economic stagnation, and at the time seemed to enjoy widespread support.

However, there were few signs of public enthusiasm for his referendum, and only a limited number of people attended rallies in his support.

Many Tunisians, when asked about the political unrest, instead point to the looming economic crisis as the most pressing issue facing the country.

On Monday, Tunisia will vote on a draft constitution that enshrines the sweeping powers Said has exercised since he ousted the government last year.