Tunisia to vote on constitutional referendum

Voters across Tunisia head to the polls today to vote on a constitutional referendum that would dramatically increase the powers

Tunisia will vote on a constitutional referendum that would increase the president’s powers today – Photo: AFP/HO/Presidency Press Service

Voters across Tunisia head to the polls today to vote on a constitutional referendum that would dramatically increase the powers of the presidency.

The proposed amendments eliminate most legislative and judicial checks on presidential power. Among other things, they divest Parliament’s prerogative to choose a prime minister, scrap its ability to impeach the president and eliminate the highest court’s jurisdiction to rule on questions of presidential power limits.

While opposition to the amendments is widespread, expect President Kais Saied to exploit a lack of unity among opposition groups and the current state of emergency to force through the constitutional changes. The opposition is divided on whether to vote no or to boycott the vote altogether. Supporters of a boycott claim that voting no will empower Saied to falsify the results while opponents say he will declare victory even on a low turnout. Moreover, with the country’s state of emergency in effect until December, the government is likely to use its broad grant of extraordinary power to crack down on demonstrations.

As such, Saied is likely to continue leading Tunisia toward autocracy, further erasing the country’s post-Arab Spring move to liberal democracy.