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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Tunisian protesters decry statute reform plans

2033103
2033103

TUNIS: Hundreds demonstrated on Sunday in Tunisia’s capital against a planned referendum on constitutional changes and President Kais Saied’s recent firing of dozens of judges.


Protesters in Tunis responded to calls from opposition organisations, including Saied’s nemesis the Ennahdha party, chanting “constitution, liberty and dignity” and “the people want an independent judiciary”, a correspondent said.


The new constitution is the centrepiece of reform plans by Saied and is set to go to referendum on July 25, exactly one year after he sacked the government and suspended parliament.


He has steadily extended his power grab since then, including by dissolving parliament in March. Earlier this month he sacked 57 judges, after accusing many of corruption and other crimes.


“The referendum is just nothing but a fraud’’, said Ali Larayedh, a leader from Ennahdha, which was parliament’s biggest party and a key player in the government fired by the president.


“We are demonstrating against the exclusion of the judicial authority and against the coup d’etat that targets the constitution’’, he said.


The 2014 constitution, a hard-won compromise between Ennahdha and its secular rivals, created a system where both the president and parliament had executive powers.


It was adopted three years after the North African country’s 2011 revolution. Rights groups have condemned Saied’s firing earlier this month of the 57 judges as a “deep blow to judicial independence”.


Saied is a former law professor elected in 2019 amid public anger against the political class in the North African nation.


He has organised a “national dialogue” around the constitutional reforms, but opponents including the powerful UGTT trade union confederation have boycotted it, on the grounds that it excludes key civil society actors and political parties.


A draft of the new constitution is due to be presented to Saied on Monday ahead of a referendum in the form of a simple yes/no vote.


Ennahdha warned earlier this month against dropping references to Islam in any new constitution. — AFP


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