Tunisian president defends constitution

Wednesday, Jul 06, 2022

TUNIS: Tunisia’s President Kais Saied on Tuesday defended a draft constitution set for referendum this month, after the drafting committee’s chief disavowed a document he said could return the country to dictatorship.

The new constitution is the centrepiece of Saied’s plan to remake the North African country’s political system, over a decade after its pro-democracy revolt which sparked copy-cat uprisings across the region.

But Sadeq Belaid, the legal expert who oversaw the drafting of the new constitution, said the final version Saied published last week was "completely different" from his committee’s draft, and warned that some articles could "pave the way for a dictatorial regime".

On Tuesday, Saied’s office published an open letter arguing that "this draft was built on what the Tunisian people have expressed from the start of the revolution (in late 2010) up until the correction of its path on July 25, 2021."

That was the day Saied sacked the government, suspended parliament and seized wide-ranging powers in moves opponents have called a coup against the only democratic system to have emerged from the Arab Spring revolts.

Saied wants a presidential system to replace the country’s 2014 constitution, which enshrined a mixed presidential-parliamentary system often beset by deadlock and marred by corruption. "This draft which is proposed to you expresses the spirit of the revolution, and in no way threatens rights or freedoms," Saied’s letter read.

He dismissed "those who slander and pretend" the document could return the country to tyranny, saying they had not read it in detail. He went on to urge Tunisians to vote to approve the new draft in the vote set for July 25, the first anniversary of his power grab. "Say ‘yes’ so the state does not fail, so the revolution’s aims are achieved, so there will be no misery, terrorism, hunger, injustice and suffering," he wrote.