Tunisians approve new constitution that undermines democracy

Tunisians have approved a new constitution that enshrines the unity of command established by the president. Qays Said for the last year based on the results or a referendum released on Tuesday, dealing a devastating blow to a democracy built with great effort and great hope since the country’s dictator was overthrown more than a decade ago.

Tunisia, where the Arab Spring uprisings began in 2011, has gained international recognition as the only democracy that will survive uprisings that swept the region. But this chapter actually ended with the passage new charterwhich consolidates the almost absolute power that Mr. Said conferred with himself a year ago when suspended parliament and fired his prime minister.

However, Monday’s referendum was undermined by massive boycotts, voter apathy, and a bias strongly in favor of Mr. Trump. Said. According to the results released by the electoral body, the Constitution was approved by 94.6 percent of voters.

“The masses that came out all over the country today show the significance of this moment. Said said addressing cheering supporters in central Tunisia hours after the polls closed. “Today, a new chapter of hope opens and a page of poverty, despair and injustice is turned.”

In his remarks, Mr. Said denied any authoritarian tendencies. But the new constitution will return Tunisia to a presidential system similar to that of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the authoritarian ruler who was ousted in the so-called Jasmine Revolution of 2011. It also weakens parliament and most of the other mechanisms that keep presidential power in check. while at the same time granting the head of state the ultimate authority to form the government, appoint judges, and make laws.

It retains most of the articles of the 2014 Constitution relating to rights and freedoms. But unlike the previous Constitution, which divided power between parliament and the president, the new constitution reduces the legislature and judiciary to more like civil servants, leaving only the president to appoint government ministers and judges, and weakening the power of parliament. deprive governments of confidence.

After ending years of political paralysis, the referendum could spell the end of a fledgling democracy that many Tunisians have come to view as corrupt and woefully incapable of guaranteeing bread, freedom and dignity — ideals they celebrated in 2011.

But with a low turnout of around 30% and a boycott of the vote by most major political parties to avoid giving him more legitimacy, Mr Said is now on slippery ground, his ability to push through further reforms in question.

State Department spokesman Ned Price noted the low turnout in the referendum and civil society groups’ concerns about the process, including “the lack of an inclusive and transparent process and limited opportunities for genuine public debate during the drafting of a new constitution.” “

“We also note concerns that the new constitution includes weakened checks and balances that could jeopardize the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” he said. Price said this at a daily press briefing.

the inability of the democratic system to provide good jobs and set the table with food, root out widespread corruption or implement much-needed reforms have prompted many Tunisians to turn to Mr Said to the rescue. The former constitutional law professor was elected president in 2019 in large part because he was a political outsider.

By 2021, two-thirds of Tunisians associated democracy with instability, indecision and a weak economy. Arabic barometer poll.

When Mr. Said seized power a year ago, celebrations erupted in the streets of the Tunisian capital. Polls showed that the vast majority of Tunisians supported his actions, although opponents and analysts called them a coup. But hey announced his seizure of power is necessary to fulfill the long-unfulfilled goals of the revolution and rid the country of corruption.

“If you tell me about democracy, human rights and things like that, we haven’t seen anything like this in the last 10 years,” said Rafaa Baouindi, 50, a bank clerk who voted yes in central Tunisia on Monday. “What is happening today, I call a new era in a good way. It can’t be worse than the last decade.”

He said he had no objection to the Constitution placing power in the hands of the president. “The boat needs one captain,” he said. “Personally, I need one captain.”

For supporters, an added incentive to vote for Mr. Said’s New Constitution was the fear that Nahda, the Islamist political party that dominated parliament before Said dissolved it, wanted to return to power. mr. Said and his supporters ignited this long-standing fear among secular Tunisians during the preparations for the referendum.

The low turnout, however, reflects a weakening of Mr. Said’s popular support over the past year, as the economy has declinedcorruption flourished, and the president became increasingly authoritarian.

Tunisians questioned his focus primarily on the adoption of a new Constitution and other political reforms at a time when the government was struggling to pay wages, the price of bread and other food was skyrocketing as a result of the war in Ukraine, and decent work for still seemed out of reach for many Tunisians.

mr. Said lost more support when he started rule almost exclusively by decreeby imprisoning opponents and critics and using military courts to try them, by imposing restrictions on the media, and by seizing control of previously independent bodies such as the country’s highest judicial review board and the electoral commission.

Dissatisfied with his sole rule, all but half a million Tunisians ignored him. Said’s calls to participate in Online survey about the future of the country. But the opposition remained fragmented and failed to offer credible alternatives to Tunisians who harbor misgivings about Mr. Trump. Said.

Still, passing the referendum is, if not a resounding victory, Mr. Said may have hoped for what many expected. mr. Said appointed the board of the previously independent electoral body, as well as the committee that drafted the new Constitution, and no minimum participation was required to hold a referendum.

Those who opposed the proposal said the whole process was leaning in the “yes” direction, with government ministers urging Tunisians to support the new constitution and the state-funded media mostly voicing pro-Said’s voices.

Massinissa Benlakeal provided reporting from Tunisia, Tunisia.