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Dominating Tunisian party calls for boycott of constitutional vote

#Dominating #Tunisian #party #calls #boycott #constitutional #vote

Tunisia’s Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party on Thursday urged its supporters to boycott a July 25 referendum on President Kais Saied’s new constitution, saying it “would result in a repressive, authoritarian regime.”

“We are calling for a boycott of the referendum because what is being voted on is not in the interest of the Tunisians,” said party spokesman Imed Khemeri at a press conference in Tunis.

Saied ousted the government in July last year and froze the Ennahda-dominated parliament.

He later expanded his powers in what critics see as a coup against democracy at the birthplace of the Arab Spring uprisings.

The constitution, at the heart of Saied’s effort to reshape Tunisia’s political system, immediately drew criticism for the nearly unlimited powers it bestows on the president.

“The submitted design is tailor-made for Saied,” said Khemeri.

“This document does not come from the people or from a national dialogue.”

The legal expert, who led a committee to draft the new charter, said the final text published by Saied had “nothing to do with the text that we drafted and presented to the President”.

Expert Sadeq Belaid added that it risks paving the way for a “dictatorial regime,” more than a decade after Tunisia’s pro-democracy revolt sparked mock uprisings across the region.

Saied defended the draft constitution in an open letter on Tuesday.

He said “this draft builds on what the Tunisian people expressed from the beginning of the revolution to correcting their path” last July and that those worried about the creation of a new autocracy did not support it would have read correctly.

Ennahdha, which has dominated Tunisian politics since the revolt to overthrow dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, has been under pressure since Saied came to power.

A Tunisian court on Tuesday frozen the bank accounts of its leader and speaker of the now-defunct parliament, Rached Ghannouchi, as well as his son Mouadh and former prime minister and former senior party member Hamadi Jebali, who is accused of money laundering.

Some 30 NGOs, including journalists’ union SNJT and rights group LTDH, also called for a boycott of the referendum on Thursday, saying the text was “written by a single person without the involvement of civil society or experts”.

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