Tunisian President Saied close to victory over his contested Constitution

Tunisian President Saïed close to victory over his contested Constitution

The main opposition parties, including the opposition movement #x27;Islamist-inspired Ennahdha, at the heart of power until July 2021, have called for a boycott of the ballot, which they consider “illegal” and not concerted.

At around 1 a.m., President Kaïs Saïed appeared before a jubilant crowd.

President Kaïs Saïed proclaimed on Tuesday the entry of Tunisia into a “new phase” after the almost certain victory of the “yes” in a referendum on a new Constitution which clearly strengthens its prerogatives and is considered perilous for the fragile Tunisian democracy.

In a speech delivered in the middle of the night in front of his supporters, gathered in the center of Tunis, he considered that the Tunisians gave a lesson to the world, a lesson in history. The referendum will make it possible to move from a situation of despair to a situation of hope.

Tunisia, facing an economic crisis, aggravated by COVID and by the the war in Ukraine, on which it depends for its wheat imports, has been very polarized since Mr. Saïed, democratically elected in 2019, seized all powers on July 25, 2021.

The first official results are not expected before the afternoon, but according to the polling institute Sigma Conseil, the yes vote won with 92.3% of the votes.

< p class="e-p">Since most of the major opposition parties and primarily the Islamist-inspired movement Ennahdha boycotted Monday's election, all eyes were on turnout, which was very low, but larger than expected.

Kaïs Saïed supporters gathered on Bourguiba Avenue, in the heart of the capital, sounding their horns or waving the Tunisian flag .

Based on provisional data, 27.5% of the 9.3 million registered voters voted, in a country where abstention is traditionally very high , with turnout generally below 40%.

The National Salvation Front, an aggregation of opponents including Ennahdha, estimated that 75% of Tunisians refused to give their approval to the coup project launched a year ago by Kaïs Saïed.

For analyst Youssef Cherif, turnout was well over 10% [expected by some analysts], but well below 50%. And above all, most people voted for the man [Kaïs Saïed] or against his opponents, but not for his text.

Analyst Abdellatif Hannachi also thinks the vote was a test of Mr. Saïed's popularity, pointing out that while on the surface the [turnout] numbers are low, but it's quite a respectable one. held in the summer, during the holidays and in the heat.

This result will allow Mr. Saïed to extend his hold on the country and not not have regard for other political forces, according to him.

As soon as Sigma Conseil's estimates were announced on national television, hundreds of the president's supporters descended on Bourguiba Avenue to celebrate his victory, sounding their horns or waving the national flag.

Around 1 a.m., Kaïs Saïed appeared in front of the jubilant crowd. Tunisia has entered a new phase, he said, assuring that the turnout would have been higher if the vote had taken place over two days.

The voters were above all the most aggrieved middle classes, adults who feel cheated economically, politically and socially, analyzed for AFP the director of Sigma Conseil, Hassen Zargouni.

The new fundamental law grants broad prerogatives to the Head of State, breaking with the parliamentary system in place since 2014.

The president who cannot be impeached appoints the head of government and the ministers and can dismiss them as he pleases. He can submit to Parliament legislative texts which have priority. A second chamber will represent the regions, as a counterweight to the current Assembly of Representatives [deputies].

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

President Saïed, 64, considers his overhaul of the Constitution as an extension of the course 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.

The new text gives almost all the powers to the president and dismantles all the systems and institutions that can control him, Said Benarbia, regional director of the International Commission of Jurists ICJ.

If areas of freedom remain guaranteed, the question of a return to a dictatorship like that of Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, who was ousted in 2011 during of a popular revolt, could arise in the aftermath of Kaïs Saïed, Mr. Cherif told AFP.

For many; experts, Mr. Saïed's political future will also depend on his ability to revive an economy in a catastrophic situation with very high unemployment, plummeting purchasing power and rising poverty rate (4 million people).

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