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Tunisia: Ghannouchi describes referendum as 'deception' of the people

Rached Ghannouchi, head of Tunisia's Islamist Ennahda party, delivers his speech in Sfax on 5 June 2022 [HOUSSEM ZOUARI/AFP/Getty Images]
Rached Ghannouchi, head of Tunisia's Islamist Ennahda party, in Sfax on 5 June 2022 [HOUSSEM ZOUARI/AFP/Getty Images]

The head of Ennahda Movement in Tunisia described on Saturday the referendum on the draft constitution as "deception of the people" as part of a "planned and fraudulent game." Rached Ghannouchi insisted that "sane people" will not take part.

"The country is going through its worst phases," Ghannouchi told Zitouna TV. "The measures imposed last July lost us much of the freedom and democracy that we achieved [from the revolution] but we did not get any development. The past decade was not prosperous, but there was no deviation from the [revolutionary] course after Tunisia had become an icon for the world."

The referendum is being held today, on the first anniversary of the measures introduced by President Kais Saied. These included the dismissal of the government; the dissolution of the Supreme Judicial Council and parliament; and the issue of legislation by presidential decree. Saied has drafted a new constitution which basically gives him total power in Tunisia.

"We should not expect good from Saied's constitution," said Ghannouchi. "He feels that he is the envoy of divine providence. If we were to have the option to choose between a constitution full of Islamic meanings and a constitution free of them but democratic, we are with democracy."

READ: Tunisian organisations consider July 25 as referendum date on President Said, not on constitution

The veteran politician insisted that what Tunisia needs is an economic and social consensus to save the country from bankruptcy. "Saied's discourse is a civil war project, and his supporters applied that in reality when they attacked his political opponents."

Voting started this morning at six o'clock, and will last until 10pm. Tunisians living overseas started voting on 23 July from 8am to 6pm local time wherever they live.

In a previous interview with New Arab newspaper, Ghannouchi stressed that the utmost priority is to resist the dictatorship that will confront everyone, describing Saied as an icon for the counter-revolution. Although Ennahda's leader called for dialogue in which Saied participates and does not exclude anyone, he said that it should still proceed even though the president has refused to take part.

Ghannouchi affirmed Ennahda's readiness to waive any position if it means saving democracy. He said that he would prefer to live as a citizen within a democratic system than to be a president in a dictatorship.

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