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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Turnout low as Tunisians vote in referendum

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TUNIS: Turnout was low in Tunisia on Monday as people voted in a referendum on a controversial draft constitution that grants the president wide powers, amid a months-long political crisis in the country.


Voter turnout reached 11.8 per cent by 1 pm, according to the head of the election commission Farouk Bouaskar.


Polling stations opened at 6 am (05:00 GMT) and are due to close at 10 pm.


Bouaskar expected more people to head to the polls in the evening, especially young voters, the official TAP news agency reported.


The opposition has called for a boycott and accused President Kais Saied of seeking to establish an autocracy in Tunisia, once considered the sole democratic success story of the Arab Spring.


The vote comes exactly a year after Saied unseated the government and suspended parliament, part of a string of measures the opposition decried as a “coup.”


The North African country has since been in political turmoil, with the opposition staging street protests against Saied.


“We will establish a new republic... different than the one that existed in the past 10 years and even before that,” Saied told state television before casting his ballot.


In March, Saied dissolved parliament, led by Islamist Ennahda movement, and later sacked dozens of judges for alleged corruption.


Saied, who took office in 2019, has defended his moves, saying they were in line with the constitution.


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