Will Tunisia’s constitutional referendum lead to turmoil? | Politics

From: Inside Story

Rivals concern president’s plan to ‘right the course of the revolution’ will dismantle democracy.

Protesters in Tunisia say Monday’s referendum on constitutional reforms is prohibited.

The proposed adjustments would sideline parliament and take away most checks on the president’s energy.

Opposition teams say it’s a return to autocracy.

If permitted, the brand new structure would finish the hybrid presidential-parliamentary system blamed for the political infighting that paralysed Tunisia’s post-revolution governments.

What sort of political system does the brand new structure suggest?

Presenter: Bernard Smith


Amine Snoussi – Political analyst and journalist

Mohamed-Dhia Hammami – Researcher at Syracuse Univesity’s Maxwell Faculty

Zaid al-Ali – Founding father of the Arab Affiliation of Constitutional Regulation

Opponents of Tunisia’s new referendum unable to unite before vote | News

Tunis, Tunisia – Opponents of Tunisia’s President Kais Saied are divided on one of the best line of motion to tackle Monday’s referendum on his new structure.

Some say they need to make the most of the final lack of assist for the doc and vote “no”, whereas others are of the opinion that the referendum ought to be boycotted, in order to not legitimise the method.

The motion has struggled to have a united voice; ideological divisions imply that the primary anti-Saied grouping, Residents In opposition to the Coup, has confronted issue attracting assist from some on the liberal left as a result of it consists of members of the Ennahdha Social gathering amongst its ranks, in addition to different political events.

Solely days away from the vote, opponents of the brand new structure are planning on holding separate demonstrations, fairly than coalescing round one mass motion.

“I can not exhibit alongside Residents In opposition to the Coup as a result of they’re allied with Ennahdha, and I can’t be with [right-wing politician] Abir Moussi,” stated Ahlem Bousserwel, the final secretary of the Tunisian Affiliation of Democratic Girls, who will maintain an illustration with different feminist and human rights teams on Friday.

Lots of the folks on this facet of the controversy had beforehand supported Saied, and welcomed his determination final July to droop parliament, the place Ennahdha was the largest get together and dissolve the federal government.

Wajdi Mahouechi was serving a jail sentence on the time for his political activism and vlogging.

“After I heard this [that Saied was suspending parliament] I shouted for pleasure, I used to be so comfortable,” Mahouechi stated.

Nevertheless, after profitable an attraction for early launch, Mahouechi stated that he didn’t discover the modifications he needed, and began campaigning on-line with comedy sketches satirising what he referred to as Saied’s unusual behaviours.

His hottest video known as The President Who Cried Wolf, “as a result of he’s at all times saying ‘they wish to kill me, however no person desires to kill him.’”

However like Bousserwel, Mahouechi isn’t certain whether or not he desires to hitch different anti-Saied teams.

“I’m in search of my place, I can’t be with Ennadha, or the PDL [Moussi’s Free Destourian Party] or these different teams or events,” Mahouechi stated, including that he was debating whether or not to hitch a Democratic Girls protest and whether or not he ought to vote no, or simply boycott the referendum.

Push for a boycott

Ennahdha supporters level out that the get together has labored with a number of others in coalition governments, regardless of rising as the largest get together in parliamentary elections since 2014.

They really feel they’ve been unfairly blamed for the nation’s political and financial woes and have referred to as for the opposition to Saied to unite.

Rached Jaidane, a political activist who was tortured throughout his 13 years in jail below the rule of former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, says there has by no means been any debate over whether or not Saied is a dictator and has no issues marching alongside members of Ennahdha at Residents In opposition to the Coup demonstrations.

Jaidane believes that’s the place the battle might be received, and never on the poll field.

“A vote for ‘no’ is a vote for ‘sure’, I’m satisfied Saied will falsify the consequence,” Jaidane advised Al Jazeera, confirming that he could be boycotting the vote.

On the eleventh hour, Tunisian civil society is rallying towards not simply Saied’s proposed new structure however towards the entire referendum course of that they are saying is totally illegitimate.

The Nationwide Salvation Entrance, a coalition of opposition events, has referred to as for a mass protest within the capital, Tunis on Saturday, the place they are going to name for a boycott.

“It’s a non-event, and never what the Tunisian folks want proper now,” stated Ahmed Gaaloul, a coverage adviser to Ennahdha chief Rached Ghannouchi.

“Our coverage as a part of the [opposition] Nationwide Salvation Entrance is to boycott this unlawful course of and it’s why we will exhibit on Saturday to ask folks to not take part on this unlawful course of,” Gaaloul stated.

That place is shared throughout the divide on the opposition facet, with Bousserwel additionally telling Al Jazeera that she wouldn’t simply boycott the vote, however actively protest towards what she referred to as a “utterly illegitimate course of”.


Some events, such because the centre-left Afek Tounes, have been placing up posters calling for folks to vote “no” however with little time to marketing campaign, not to mention debate choices, confusion abounds as as to whether it’s best to vote “no” or to boycott.

However some are deciding to move out to vote towards the referendum, amongst them former supporters of Saied.

Considered one of them, a founding father of the Motion of twenty fifth July, a distinguished Fb web page set as much as encourage Saied to take energy again from the federal government final 12 months, defined why.

“After I heard what the president was going to do, I used to be so comfortable,” the founder, who didn’t want to be named, stated, referring to the structure.

Nevertheless, after a 12 months of continued campaigning, the founder was devastated to learn the brand new structure, which concentrates energy within the arms of the president, and has left some secular Tunisians apprehensive about non secular conservatism and unchecked political powers.

“Now I remorse every part I’ve completed. This isn’t the structure that I’ve been combating for, I really feel betrayed. I feel I’ll vote ‘no’.

Typically, there was little assist for the referendum course of, with lower than 450,000 Tunisians collaborating within the on-line session survey, and polls predicting turnout as little as 13 p.c. The electoral authority, nonetheless, has not set a mandated minimal stage of participation.

“Many individuals who voted for Kais Saied in 2019 have now turned towards him,” stated Amine Snoussi, a Tunisian political analyst and creator.

“There are individuals who will vote due to societal points, and there are those that will vote towards the structure as a result of they concern political Islam,” Snoussi stated.

Snoussi had warnings for supporters and opponents of a boycott.

“It’ll be a struggle towards abstention and low turnout,” Snoussi stated. “’Sure’ voters are satisfied that will probably be a landslide victory for the ‘sure’ marketing campaign. It’d scale back the ‘sure’ voters and provides an opportunity to the ‘no’ vote.”

Tunisians must boycott the upcoming constitutional referendum | Opinions

The brand new draft structure launched by Tunisia’s President Kais Saied, which shall be voted on by the general public in a July 25 referendum, indicators the approaching undoing of the nation’s post-revolution political transition. It represents a harmful turning level that exposes Saied’s intention to consolidate his one-man rule by turning Tunisia’s younger democracy formally – and thru seemingly authorized means – into an autocracy.

His proposed structure re-establishes a hyper-presidential system and banalises the judiciary and legislative branches by putting them utterly beneath the management of the president. It foresees the disappearance of Tunisia’s pluralistic system of political events and unbiased our bodies and, most significantly, legitimises the removing of the checks and balances on the authority of the chief. In a nutshell, Saied’s structure goals to revive the authoritarian rule from which Tunisians have reeled for many years and began a revolution to dismantle.

Boycotting the constitutional referendum is the one remaining choice for Tunisians involved with safeguarding their nation’s younger and fragile democracy.

Since his notorious July 25, 2021 energy seize, Saied – largely assisted by Tunisia’s highly effective safety equipment – has slowly and steadily destroyed the pillars of a vibrant, albeit chaotic, political ecosystem, and constrained the civil freedoms and rights that many Tunisians have fought onerous to realize and reached tough compromises round.

After shutting off the parliament, his regime has established a reign of invisible concern that has since succeeded in silencing his political opponents and excluding them from the general public area. Not solely opposing voices are all however eradicated from the nationwide media, many former members of the parliament, attorneys and civil activists have been jailed.

Saied’s resolution to put in writing a draft structure lower than a 12 months after his coup takes a well-used web page from the playbook of autocratic legalism –  by performing like he’s merely working in direction of constructing a extra strong authorized framework to assist democracy, he’s attempting to deceive Tunisians into considering his authoritarian program is definitely authorized and democratic, and should even ultimately end result within the institution of a brand new, way more progressive republic.

Saied, a retired legislation lecturer, managed to seize energy initially as a result of he knew the way to recreation the shaky political system in post-revolutionary Tunisia and reap the benefits of the inherent flaws of the present constitutional design.

After being elected president, he efficiently weaponised the general public’s declining belief within the fractured parliament and frustration with the nation’s deepening financial and social vulnerabilities to highjack shaky democratic establishments from inside and consolidate his energy beneath the guise of trying to “repair” the democratic system.

As he repeatedly paid lip service to democratic rights and ideas, and used not solely the blunt pressure of the navy but additionally article 80 of the 2014 structure to grab energy and dismiss the parliament, he managed to confuse a big variety of native and worldwide analysts and commentators into considering what occurred on July 25, 2021 was not a coup and the president is certainly performing to strengthen Tunisia’s democracy. Even many of the Tunisian public debate on the occasions of July 25 have been centered on establishing whether or not Saeid’s coup can truly be thought-about a coup. Due to this confusion, whereas everybody was busy attempting to ascertain whether or not what occurred was “authorized” or not, Saied has efficiently launched a exact legalistic programme of autocratic consolidation and dismantled the judicial system and civil organisations via a collection of decrees, established a monopoly over the state media and criminalised dissent.

And as he strikes to finalise his energy seize by passing a brand new structure, Saied continues to be attempting to confuse the world and the Tunisian public into considering that his major intention is to additional democratic rights and freedoms within the nation. The president’s new structure, for instance, repeatedly emphasises the significance of “the desire of individuals”, human rights, elementary freedoms and the rule of legislation.

And but, Saied’s actions prior to now 12 months clearly exhibit that he has little interest in serving the desire of the individuals or furthering democracy within the nation. Certainly, since his energy seize, the president has solely proven a cynical contempt for democracy and fact.

He excluded opposition events and civil organisations from the drafting of the brand new structure. He persecuted his major political opponent, Rached Ghannouchi, the pinnacle of the Ennahdha get together, and froze his financial institution accounts and people of different Ennahdha figures on alleged prices of cash laundering. He additionally dissolved the Supreme Judicial Council and sacked greater than 57 judges. Extra lately, he dominated that solely his allies might take part within the public debate on the proposed structure and the July 25 referendum. He additionally made positive that the constitutional referendum shouldn’t be an actual referendum. Voting towards the proposed structure appears to be futile as a result of the deliberate referendum is barely “consultative”, and Tunisia’s new dictator – who’s in fact additionally accountable for the elections authority – will make the ultimate resolution.

Legalistic autocrats like Saied hypocritically embrace elections and referendums to befuddle any critics and advance their autocratic program. As Kim Lane Scheppele, professor of sociology and worldwide affairs at Princeton College, argues, “The autocratic legalists usually make a large public present of being ruled by and governing throughout the legislation, altering the legislation and even the structure itself with impeccably authorized (if intolerant) strategies. However beneath the authorized reforms carried out within the title of democracy is the intolerant sensibility of the autocrat and the regular consolidation of energy in fewer and fewer fingers.”

Tunisia’s upcoming constitutional referendum is nothing greater than one other deceitful try by the area’s newest autocratic legalist, Saied, to leverage the ability and respectability of democratic constitutionalism to consolidate his authoritarian rule. To make their voices heard, Tunisians should boycott this charade. It’s the solely approach they will problem Saied’s illegitimate ways and keep away from collaborating within the dismantling of the democratic system they labored so onerous and sacrificed a lot to construct.

The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.