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.