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Controversial Tunisian Constitution comes into effect amid criticism

August 18, 2022 at 2:01 pm

Farouk Bouasker (C), president of Tunisian Independent High Authority for Elections, holds a press conference to announce the official results of the 25 July referendum on the new constitution in Tunis, Tunisia on August 16, 2022. [Yassine Gaidi – Anadolu Agency]

Tunisian President Kais Saied announced, Wednesday, that the new Constitution, which was accepted with a referendum on 25 July, has entered into force.

In a speech broadcast on State television, Saied said they experienced one of the historical days in Tunisia.

“We have many historical days, and 25 July of this year and last year are among them,” he said.

Opponents of the new Constitution argue that it will reverse Tunisia’s democratic achievements from the 2011 revolution by allegedly giving Said unchecked powers.

Voter turnout for the referendum was low, with the electoral commission putting it at 30.5 per cent. The new Constitution will come into effect once it is published in the official gazette.

In June, Saied sacked 57 judges, accusing them of corruption and protecting terrorists.

Several Tunisian parties and organisations, as well as the US and the rights group Amnesty International, condemned Saied’s decision.

READ: Is Kais Saied a popular dictator or a misunderstood reformist? 

On Tuesday, journalist Salah Attia, who was investigated for a critical statement he made about the army in Tunisia, was sentenced to three months in prison by a military court in the capital, Tunis, according to a Facebook post by his lawyer.

“Despite a year of repression by Tunisian President Kais Saied’s government, we are still shocked by a military court’s decision to sentence journalist, Salah Attia, to three months in prison,” said Sherif Mansour, the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Middle East and North Africa program coordinator.

“Authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Attia, drop all charges against him and ensure that journalists can work freely without fear of imprisonment.”

Tunisia has been in the throes of a deep political crisis that aggravated the country’s economic conditions since Saied ousted the government, suspended parliament and assumed executive authority in July 2021. He later dissolved the assembly after lawmakers held a session to challenge his measures.

While Saied insists that his measures were meant to “save” the country, critics have accused him of orchestrating a coup.