– Higher-than-expected turnout in referendum on constitution
Tunisians have been called to the polls on Monday to vote on a new constitution proposed by President Ghiz Tsai.
Some 28% of voters, more than expected, voted in a new constitution in Tunisia on Monday that clearly strengthens the powers of President Gaissad, risking the country, the cradle of the Arab Spring, returning to an authoritarian regime.
“Between 92 and 93%” of voters approved Qais Saeed’s plan, Hassan Sarkony, director of AFP polling firm Sigma Conseil, assured, based on polls taken from the ballot box. After the announcement of the estimate on national television, 200 to 300 of the president’s supporters flocked to Bourguiba Avenue in the center of the capital in a country where polls are usually very strong. “Guys, we sacrifice ourselves for you”, some shouted during the singing of the national anthem.
Like most of the opposition, the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party boycotted the election, saying the issue polled above all, with at least 2.46 million voters and 27.54% of the 9.3 million voters, according to electoral commission Isie.
“Voters had a historic encounter and went to the polls in very respectable numbers,” commented Farouk Bouasker, President of Isie. The director of Sigma Conseil researched that the voters were above all “the most affected middle class, adults who feel economically, politically and socially cheated”.
Tunisia, which is facing an economic crisis worsened by Covid and the war in Ukraine, which relies on its wheat imports, has been highly polarized since a democratically elected president seized all power there in 2019.
Two large blocs voted “yes”, said Hassan Zarkoni, who longed for the “modernist part of the country”, sometimes a “fan club” of unconditional supporters of Ben Ali and Qais Syed, especially young people between the ages of 18 and 25. Polling stations in Tunis were more crowded than expected, according to AFP reporters.
“A Great Hope”
“We have high hopes for July 25. “Tunisia will prosper from today,” Imet Hesse, a 57-year-old worker, told AFP, showing a blue-inked finger to avoid any fraud. After voting in the morning, the president called for the ratification of his constitution “to establish a new republic based on true freedom, true justice and national dignity.”
Ennahda condemned the reports that could have guided the vote, saying it represented “a fraud in the vote”. The controversial new basic law, imposed by President Said, breaks with the parliamentary system in place since 2014 and gives the head of state vast powers.
The President appoints the head of government and ministers and can dismiss them as he wishes. He can submit “priority” legislative texts to Parliament. The second chamber represents the regions as a counterweight to the current House of Representatives (Deputies).
The opposition and many NGOs have denounced the constitution as “tailor-made” for Qais Syed and the risk of an authoritarian slide by a president who is accountable to no one. Judge Zadok Beloyd, appointed by Qais Sai to draft the new constitution, rejected the final text, believing it would “open the way for authoritarian rule”. The opposition called for an “illegal process” and a boycott of the vote without consultation.