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Tunisia: Macron calls referendum 'important stage' for 'inclusive dialogue'

French President Emmanuel Macron on June 24, 2022 [Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency]
French President Emmanuel Macron on June 24, 2022 [Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency]

French President Emmanuel Macron described on Tuesday the controversial referendum which led to a new constitution in Tunisia that grants near total power to the president, as an "important stage". He called on his counterpart Kais Saied to work for a "dialogue in which all parties participate."

According to Agence France-Presse, the details of the telephone conversation between the two men were provided in an official statement from Paris. The "inclusive dialogue" must "respect the sovereignty of Tunisia," said the French leader.

According to the preliminary results, the new constitution was approved by an overwhelming majority of 94.6 per cent of those who voted in the referendum last month. However, its opponents said that the participation rate, which was about a quarter of all eligible voters, undermines this figure. A legislative election is supposed to be held on 17 December.

The US has warned of the danger that the constitution does not adequately guarantee the rights and freedoms of Tunisians. The EU called on the authorities to "maintain" fundamental freedoms and insisted on the need for "broad consensus" between political forces and civil society to "implement all important political and economic reforms" in future.

Tunisia is facing an economic crisis exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, upon which it depends for wheat imports. It has also experienced extreme polarisation since Saied, who was democratically elected in 2019, took over all legislative and executive powers on 25 July last year.

READ: Tunisia rights group sues president for violating electoral law

The controversial new constitution grants broad powers to the state president, which violates the parliamentary system applicable since the 2014 constitution was adopted. The new document stipulates that the president assumes executive power with the assistance of a prime minister who is appointed and may be dismissed by the president as he chooses, without any role for parliament in this.

Moreover, the president is Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, and has the power to control the general policy of the state. The laws that he issues by decree have the status of "a priority to consider" by MPs.

Macron stressed that Tunisia can "rely on France's support" in its discussions with the International Monetary Fund to obtain a loan, provided that it implements the necessary reform programme. "France is ready to work with Tunisia to meet its food needs," added the French president.

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