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Tunisia’s Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party urged its supporters on Thursday to boycott a July 25 referendum on President Kais Saied’s new constitution, saying it would “lead to a repressive, authoritarian regime”. online news
“We call for a boycott of the referendum because what is being voted on is not in the interests of Tunisians,” the party’s spokesman Imed Khemeri said at a press conference in Tunis.
Saied in July last year sacked the government and froze the parliament dominated by Ennahda.
He later extended his powers in what critics see as a coup against democracy in the birthplace of the Arab Spring uprisings.
The constitution, the centrepiece of Saied’s drive to remake the Tunisian political system, sparked instant criticism for the nearly unlimited power it gives the president.
“The draft that has been presented has been made to measure” for Saied, Khemeri said.
“This document did not come from the people or from a national dialogue.”
The legal expert who headed a committee to draw up the new charter said the final text published by Saied had “nothing to do with the text we drafted and submitted to the president”.
The expert, Sadeq Belaid, added that it risked paving the way for a “dictatorial regime”, more than a decade after Tunisia’s pro-democracy revolt sparked copy-cat uprisings across the region.
On Tuesday, Saied in an open letter defended the proposed constitution.
He said “this draft was built on what the Tunisian people have expressed from the start of the revolution up until the correction of its path” last July, and that those who worried about it creating a new autocracy hadn’t read it properly.
Ennahdha, which has dominated Tunisia’s politics since the revolt that toppled dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, has found itself under pressure since Saied’s power grab.
A Tunisian court on Tuesday froze the bank accounts of its chief and speaker of the now-dissolved parliament Rached Ghannouchi, as well as his son Mouadh and former prime minister and one-time senior party member Hamadi Jebali, who is accused of money-laundering.
Around 30 NGOs including the SNJT journalists’ union and rights group the LTDH also called Thursday for a boycott of the referendum, saying the text was “written by a single person without participation by civil society or experts”.
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