Polling stations opens as Tunisians vote on new constitution

Tunisians have started voting in a plebiscite on a draft constitution that critics say would hand the country's president wide powers. With major parties boycotting the vote, analysts are expecting a low turnout.

Polling stations opened in Tunisia on Monday as the country votes in a referendum on whether to grant the president sweeping powers.

Polling opened at 6:00 am local time (0500 GMT) at around 11,000 voting sites across the North African nation, with polls expected to close at 10:00 pm.

The plebiscite comes exactly a year after President Kais Saied unseat the government and freeze the parliament.

What to expect from the vote

Monday’s ballot is being seen as a vote on Saied’s popularity.

Nearly 9.3 million out of Tunisia’s 12 million population  — of civilians aged above  18 — have opted in or been automatically registered to vote, as per the ISIE electoral commission.

The figures include about 356,000 voters registered overseas, for whom polling began on Saturday.

Why is the draft constitution controversial? 

Saied had been working on the new constitution for several months. A draft was published in the country’s official gazette earlier in July.

The proposed constitution hands the president the authority to name and sack the government without the approval of the parliament as well as appointing judges, among other powers.

With the new text, the president could present draft laws to parliament, which would be obliged to give them priority.

The charter would also place the head of state in supreme command of the army.

Saied’s draft would also make it nearly impossible to remove him from office before the end of his five-year tenure in 2024.

If approved by the majority of cast votes, the draft constitution would replace a 2014 constitution that curtailed the president’s powers in favor of parliament and the prime minister.

The country’s 2014 charter was a hard-won compromise between Islamist-leaning and secular forces, agreed on after three years of political upheaval.


Arab Observer

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