by: BOUAZZA BEN BOUAZZA, Associated Press
TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisian President Kais Saied on Friday unveiled a new draft constitution that would grant sweeping powers to the president and curtail the authority of the prime minister and parliament.
A referendum on the constitution is scheduled for July 25, the exact day when, a year earlier, Saied suspended parliament and took power. He said the move was necessary to “save the country” from the political and economic crisis, prompting strong criticism from the opposition, who accuse him of sliding towards totalitarianism.
Several organisations, including the powerful UGTT trade union centre, deplored the absence of public dialogue in the preparation of the new constitution, which they dubbed “the Constitution of Kais Saied”.
The draft text, released late Thursday evening, would give the president executive power above that of the prime minister and establish a bicameral parliamentary system for the first time.
It would be a big change from the current constitution, which was considered groundbreaking when it was adopted in 2014 after consultations with several groups.
The 2014 constitution aimed to limit presidential power after Arab Spring protests ended 23 years of unchallenged rule by former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. He was overthrown in 2011 by a popular revolt in Tunisia which sparked a similar movement in several countries in the region against autocratic rulers.