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Tunisia: 5 parties campaign to ‘abolish’ referendum on the constitution

June 6, 2022 at 12:46 pm

A group of people gather outside to protest Tunisian President Kais Saied in Tunis [Nacer Talel/Anadolu Agency]

Five Tunisian parties on Thursday launched a campaign to abolish the referendum on the new constitution that President Kais Saied formed a committee to draft.

In a joint statement the Republican Party, the Democratic Current, the Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties, the Workers’ Party, and the Democratic Modernist Pole Party said they would launch a “national campaign to abolish the referendum on the constitution starting from their refusal to participate in it and including a call to boycott it.”

Secretary-General of the Workers’ Party, Hamma Hammami, said: “Actions will be carried out to protect the country from the dangers of disintegration and to counter all forms of violations of national sovereignty and breaching the public and individual freedoms.”

“We will be open to all democratic and progressive political forces, personalities and activities that agree with the campaign’s goals and its independence to abolish the referendum.”

The parties stressed that “the referendum project is serious, through which the absolute ruler [in reference to President Saied] intends to add a false legitimacy to ready-made decisions.”

In his speech during the press conference, the Secretary-General of the Republican Party, Issam Chebbi, said: “Today, we call to boycott and abolish the referendum because we refuse to turn Tunisia into a rogue state.”

He added that the constitution should not be exploited “in favour of the absolute ruler”.

President Saied, he continued, “is not qualified to unilaterally decide the fate of Tunisia and its people.”

For his part, the Secretary-General of the Democratic Current Party, Ghazi Chaouachi, said “the referendum violates the constitution, international standards and the sovereignty of the people.”

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“The economic, social, and political conditions in Tunisia have become dreadful, and we will counter this farce,” Chaouachi added.

On 25 May, Saied issued a decree calling on citizens to vote in a referendum on a new constitution due to be held on 25 July. Opposition groups have called for a boycott of the vote.

Saied has held nearly total power since 25 July 2021 when he sacked the prime minister, suspended parliament and assumed executive authority citing a national emergency.

He appointed a prime minister on 29 September of the same year and a government has since been formed.

The majority of the country’s political parties slammed the move as a “coup against the constitution” and the achievements of the 2011 revolution. Critics say Saied’s decisions have strengthened the powers of the presidency at the expense of parliament and the government, and that he aims to transform the country’s government into a presidential system.

On more than one occasion, Saied, who began a five-year presidential term in 2019, said that his exceptional decisions are not a coup, but rather measures within the framework of the constitution to protect the state from “imminent danger”.