In Tunis, the draft constitution that will replace the 2014 constitution was made public on Thursday 30 June. The text will be presented to a referendum on 25 July. However, there are major concerns about the power it gives to the President of the Republic.
Tunisia will soon have a new constitution. The project emanates from President Kaïs Saïed, who was elected in 2019 without a programme or a party and who assumed full powers on 25 July 2021 by suspending parliament and dismissing the government, which is dominated by the Islamo-conservative party Ennahdha.
Thus, the draft of the new Constitution that the Head of State made public on Thursday 30 June does not conform to the text proposed by the National Consultative Commission appointed by President Said himself. It would give the president broad, autocratic powers without taking into account some of the safeguards envisaged by the advisory commission.
According to Sadok Belaïd, head of the said commission and one of the most renowned jurists in Tunisia, the draft Constitution published by the Head of State, “does not belong in any way to the one we have elaborated and presented to the President”. He therefore appealed to the responsibility of the Tunisian people who alone are capable of putting an end to this process through the referendum. “Therefore, in my capacity as President of the National Consultative Commission (…), I declare with regret, and in full awareness of the responsibility towards the Tunisian people to whom the final decision belongs, that the Commission is totally innocent of the text presented by the President to the referendum.
In an interview with the World, Mr Belaïd spoke of the threefold risk of a “dictatorship”, the “reconstitution of the power of the clergy” and a “fragmentation” of the country’s “unity”.
According to the published draft, the president will enjoy wide-ranging prerogatives: he or she is the supreme commander of the armed forces, defines the general policy of the state and approves laws. It can also present legislation to Parliament, which must examine it.
The Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), the country’s main trade union centre, deplored the lack of a consultative framework prior to the adoption of the draft constitution.
The referendum campaign is currently underway in the country. On 25 July, Tunisians will go to the polls.