TUNISIA: Monday marked the start of voting in Tunisia’s referendum on a new constitution. Those who oppose President Kais Saied worry that giving him nearly complete power will destroy the democracy that resulted from the 2011 revolution.
On the first anniversary of Saied’s overthrow of an elected parliament, the vote was being held when he instituted an emergency rule and started ruling by decree.
Tunisia’s divided opposition groups have criticised his actions as a coup threatening to return the country to its previous dictatorial state and end the 2011 “Arab spring” demonstrations.
After polls shut at 2100 GMT, it is unclear when the results will be made public. However, analysts anticipate a low turnout and a “yes” vote, given the lack of apparent enthusiasm for the vote among most Tunisians and the boycott by major parties.
The new constitution can be approved by any majority of the 9.2 million registered voters, according to Saied’s referendum regulations. Only the constitution that will take effect when the final results are announced has been specified; he has not stated what would happen if voters rejected it.
Saied has praised his reforms as the cornerstone of a new republic in Tunisia that will restart the revolution and end years of political senility and economic stagnation.
Protests against Saied in recent days were divided. The largest party in parliament and an Islamist organisation, Ennahda, participated in a demonstration on Saturday.
Only a limited number of people attended the protests, and there was no indication of campaign excitement at the rallies held by Saied’s supporters.
The lowest turnout of the three legislative elections and two presidential elections since the revolution was in 2019 for the chamber that Saied had dissolved, at 41%.
The legitimacy of Saied’s new constitution and his plan to reshape Tunisian politics would be further questioned if the turnout on Monday was far lower than that percentage.