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The president of Tunisia promotes a new reform of the Constitution that would grant him broad powers

The president of Tunisia promotes a new reform of the Constitution that would grant him broad powers

First modification:

Tunisian President Kais Said published on Thursday a draft of a new constitution that he will put to a referendum next month, expanding his own powers and limiting the role of parliament in a vote that most political parties have already rejected.

Said has ruled by decree since July, when he set aside parliament and the democratic constitution of 2014, in a step that his enemies described as a coup, moving towards a one-person government and promising to remake the political system.

His intervention last summer has plunged Tunisia into its biggest political crisis since the 2011 revolution, which toppled former autocrat Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and ushered in democracy.

Voters must approve the new constitution in a referendum on July 25 for which there is no minimum turnout level.

With most of the political class opposing his measures and urging his supporters to boycott the vote, analysts say the measure is likely to pass, but with limited public participation.

Many Tunisians are much more focused on the deepening economic crisis and threats to public finances, which has caused wage delays and threatens shortages of key subsidized goods.

The draft constitution, published in the official gazette late on Thursday, says Said would continue to rule by decree until a new parliament is created through elections scheduled for December.

The new Constitution would also allow him to present bills and be solely responsible for proposing treaties and drafting state budgets, according to the official bulletin.

It would create a new “Council of Regions” as the second chamber of Parliament

Until now, political power was exercised more directly by Parliament, which assumed the main role in appointing the Government and passing legislation.

With the new Constitution, the Government will respond to the president, not to Parliament, although the Chamber may withdraw confidence in the Executive with a two-thirds majority.

The president could serve two terms of five years each and has the right to dissolve Parliament. According to the draft Constitution, an independent electoral law will be published later, which will establish the operation of voting in the new political system.

However, judges, the police, the army and customs officials would not have the right to strike. Recently, judges have been on strike for weeks in protest at Said’s moves to reduce judicial independence.

In a move that may rankle conservatives, Islam will no longer be the state religion, although Tunisia will be considered part of the broader Islamic nation.

However, President Said has upheld most of the parts of the 2015 Constitution that enumerated rights and freedoms, such as freedom of expression, the right to organize in trade unions, and the right to peaceful assembly.

*With Reuters; adapted from its English version

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Written by Editor TLN

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