Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

Extensive process – part of a reform package pushed by President Kais Saied – will help draft a new constitution.

Tunisia has launched a wide-ranging national consultation process that will help draft a new constitution, the North African country’s technology ministry said.

Part of a reform package that has been pushed through President Kais Saied, which wants to strengthen its authority, the exercise called on citizens to send proposals through electronic platforms from 1 January to 20 March.

Suitable topics include election, economic, financial, social, development, health, education and cultural affairs.

The constitutional referendum is scheduled for July 25, exactly one year after Saied ousted the government, suspended parliament and seized wide powers.

His abuses of power were initially supported by many Tunisians, amid frustration over repeated deadlocks in the brooding legislature in recent years.

The president later took steps to govern by decree, and in early December he promised to continue with reforms to the political system.

The consultation, dubbed “Your opinion, our decision”, was initially aimed at youth centers through an electronic platform across the country’s 24 regions, the Ministry of Technology said.

“The platform will be open to everyone from January 15,” it added.

Citizens will alternatively be able to give their opinion in local committees, as only 45 percent of Tunisian homes are connected to the internet.

Critics said the move underscored the “populist” approach of the president, who won elections in 2019 with a landslide turnout of 73 percent of the vote.

Accusations of authoritarianism

Saied’s one-man mission to rebuild Tunisia’s broken political structures has accusations unleashed that he is establishing a new autocracy in the birthplace of the Arab Spring uprisings.

Civil and human rights groups have pointed to military hearings of opposition figures on charges such as “insulting the president”.

On Friday, Tunisian security forces a senior official detained of the largest party in the suspended parliament for the first time since President Kais Saied took power in July, the party said.

Supporters of the ‘Citizens Against Coup’ campaign protest against President Kais Saied on 17 December 2021, in the capital Tunis, on the 11th anniversary of the start of the 2011 revolution [File: Fethi Belaid/AFP]

The Ennahdha party said agents in civilian clothes seized Noureddine Bhairi and took him away.

It called the arrest a dangerous precedent that could predict a slide into tyranny.

The Interior Ministry said, without naming Bhairi or referring to any individual event, that it had taken decisions on house arrest as permitted under an emergency rules required to preserve public safety.

A Tunisian court on December 23 former president and Saied critic Moncef Marzouki in absentia to four years in prison for “assault” on state security, according to state media.

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