Tunisia's new constitution.. Why did the majority of participants in the referendum vote yes?

Tunisia’s new constitution.. Why did the majority of participants in the referendum vote yes?

While the ruling authority in Tunisia turned the page of the old constitution, after the new constitution passed the July 25 referendum, observers are trying to anticipate the impact of this on the future of the country, which was a symbol of the success of the change provoked by the Arab Spring wave 11 years ago.

A report by the American newspaper, Washington Post, said that the Tunisians who voted in favor of the new constitution proposal that granted President Kais Saied broad powers, were not given to him by the 2014 constitution, but rather “give priority to stability over democracy,” indicating that the percentage of supporters in the referendum indicates that the people He wants stability as a first condition and then democracy.

Tunisia’s new constitution was recommended by nearly 95 percent of voters, but the turnout was very low, only 30.5 percent.

While the opposition says that the low turnout has undermined the legitimacy of the process, Said considered the results of the referendum a success.


Said said in a speech at night after announcing the results in front of his supporters in the center of the capital, Tunis, that “what the people did is a lesson, the Tunisians excelled in directing it to the world.”

But Mohamed Abbou, a Tunisian lawyer and politician, told the Washington Post that the country’s new and fragile democracy is faltering.

Abbou, who was imprisoned during the rule of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, confirmed that he was among the supporters of Said’s plans before it became clear to him that the man was “taking power,” and said that Tunisia “was a source of inspiration, attacked by the corrupt and then a crazy person,” as he put it. .

Accumulated economic crises

In Tunisia, political infighting has left legislators (parliament) divided and unable to overcome economic crises or fulfill the promises of the revolution.

Then, in 2019, Tunisians elected Said as the country’s president, the little-known candidate, who was teaching law at the University of Tunis.

Said’s supporters saw him as the antithesis of a fragmented political elite, someone with a clean record who could eradicate corruption and bring Tunisia closer to its democratic ideals.

“But it soon became clear that he had little time to examine the balances of the country’s nascent democratic system,” says the Washington Post.

Last summer, amid political disagreements and Saeed’s assertion that the people’s representatives were ineffective, the president suspended parliament and dismissed the prime minister.

Some immediately denounced the move as an “illegal coup”, while others celebrated, mostly frustrated with years of political stalemate.

But the suspension of Parliament was soon followed by other controversial moves, including the dissolution of the Independent Supreme Judicial Council and the subsequent dismissal of judges.

Saeed justified his decision to restrict legislative and judicial work by trapping corruption. Therefore, many of his supporters stood by him, even when his opponents denounced it as a coup.

Said promised the Tunisian people that complete control was the only way to reform.. How true is that?

Anwar Ben Kaddour, a leader in the influential Tunisian General Labor Union, said in an interview with the American newspaper that Said was able to undo the current system by offering a set of solutions to the youth.

He pointed out that this young man waited 10 years to see the change he called for during his revolution in 2011, but “now everyone wants to leave”, in reference to the high rates of illegal immigration towards Europe.

“We can’t use populism to tell everyone we’re going to solve problems tomorrow,” he added.

reject democracy?

Professor of Middle East Politics at New York University in Abu Dhabi, Monica Marx, explained that recommending the constitution does not mean that Saeed’s supporters were against democracy, but rather that they were only convinced that it would be able to address the country’s long-standing problems.

Then she continued, “They did not take to the street last summer with the intention of rejecting democracy. They came out believing that this was the best way to realize revolutionary dreams.”

She said some believers in his project still believe that Said can realize those dreams, while still others, angry at political stagnation, now admit they prioritized stability over democracy.

Many Tunisians have blamed the Islamist party, Ennahda, for the country’s political failures, allegations that party officials say are efforts to make them scapegoats.

But Said’s fan base at first, however, now viewed his increasing grip on power as a threat to Tunisia’s democracy, especially after he reduced the independence of the judiciary, dissolved parliament and introduced a controversial new constitution that puts more power in his hands.

On September 14, 2021, the Tunisian president stressed that his country is “ruled by a mafia” and attacked political officials he accused of corruption.

The leader of the Ennahda party, Rached Ghannouchi, who was under investigation for his alleged involvement in money laundering, a charge he strongly denies.

scattered opposition

Ghannouchi admitted that resistance to Said’s agenda was weakened by the lack of unity among lawmakers and that the revolution had not made sufficient progress.

He said, “It is true that the past 10 years were not a decade of economic prosperity, but they were 10 years of freedom that will not be erased by the happy years because those years are still in people’s minds and hearts.”

The Ennahda party was the first to criticize the dissolution of parliament and opposed Said’s decisions to limit all powers to his hands.

What’s Next?

While the Washington Post report confirmed that the people’s “recommendation” of the constitution proposed by Said was only a reaction to the economic conditions that the country has known over the past ten years, and in no way to recommend the president’s project, a report by the Middle East Institute said that economic conditions are not a priority for the Tunisian president. .

An analysis published on the institute’s website on Tuesday said that Saeed’s speech on the night of the referendum indicates his focus on his “long-term” project to renew the management structure.

In contrast, pressing economic issues such as the debt crisis, an International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan being negotiated, and issues related to inflation, low wages, and the collapse of public services seem to have been delegated to his ministers or not prioritized at all.

Despite the votes opposing the referendum and Said’s decisions about a year ago, the scattered parties will not succeed, in the eyes of the analysis, in reversing the current scales in Tunisia.

In addition to the opposition parties, civil society activists, including press associations, human rights groups, and trade unions, rejected Said’s actions, and his police control of human rights protesters and journalists, led by the Tunisian Labor Union.

The statement of the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) on July 23 used the strongest condemnation, stating that it “holds the president of the republic responsible for this repressive deviation” after police attacked journalists the previous day during a demonstration in central Tunis.

In the eyes of the analysis, this body will play a pivotal role in besieging the authority when it negotiates with the International Monetary Fund over a new loan

As Tunisia begins negotiations on a new loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund, the Tunisian General Labor Union will play a major role.

He will at least try to reduce the required austerity conditions and refuse any major concession in terms of wage cuts and privatization of public companies, according to the analysis.

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