More than 9.2 million Tunisians are invited to vote this Monday in the first referendum in the history of Tunisia, in a referendum on a new Constitution to replace that of 2014, resulting of a democratic transition that now follows an uncertain course. The more than 11 thousand polling stations will remain open from 6 am (2 pm GMT) to 22 hours (18 Brasília time) during a non-working day across the country and which coincides with the holiday period. 348.876 voters residing abroad can already vote in Tunisian embassies and consulates since Saturday.
National and international observers will guarantee the legality of the referendum: official delegations from the African Union, the Arab League and the Carter organization will be present, Farouk Bouasker, president of the Independent Higher Instance for Elections (Isie), in charge of monitoring the vote. In April, the president of Tunisia, Kais Saied, changed the composition of the Isie, a previously independent body, whose members are now directly and indirectly elected by him. In turn, the Tunisian association Mourakiboun will mobilize 3,200 observers for 1,000 polling stations, while the authorities have announced that 84 1,000 agents will supervise the electoral colleges.
The constitutional referendum is part of President Saied’s roadmap, which on 22 July
decreed a state of emergency to correct, as he then declared, the “revolutionary course” that began in 2014 with the fall of the dictatorship of Zine el Abidine Ben Ali. The episode was considered the beginning of the Arab Spring, a movement that spread and led to the removal of two more rulers besides Ben Ali – the Egyptian Hosni Mubarak and the Libyan Muammar Gaddafi – and there were waves of protests in several other countries in the region.
Jurists consider that the new text makes room for authoritarianism
The new Constitution, if approved, will replace the current one of 2014 and will form a political system that will go from parliamentary, like the current one, to “ultra-presidential”, as it gives greater executive powers to the head of state and weakens the role of Parliament. Jurists warned about the lack of judicial independence and the separation of powers that guarantee the rule of law in the new text that, in their assessment, “codifies authoritarianism”.
The citizens, who saw the draft final on 30 June – later modified on July 8 with minor changes – will decide whether to approve or reject the new text. The counting of votes will extend from Tuesday, day 26, to Thursday, day 28, when the preliminary results will be known; then a period of allegations opens between 30 July and 27 of August, with the publication of the final results in 26 of August.
The text includes in the transitional provisions that the decree of September 2021, whereby the president governs with exceptional measures, will be maintained until the formation of a new parliament, called the Assembly of People’s Representatives. Saied announced legislative elections for December 18, the date in remembrance of self-immolation, in 348 ), by the young street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi in the city of Sidi Bouzid, considered the spark of the protests that led to the revolution.
Already in this 25 July marks one year since Saied dismissed the prime minister and suspended parliament – later dissolved – to “save” the nation, in addition to being the 65. th anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic of Tunisia by Habib Bourguiba. The Tunisian president, who insists on the creation of a “New Republic”, based the current political roadmap on a digital poll carried out in January in which just over 5% of registered voters participated. Most political parties called for a boycott of the historic referendum, which does not include a minimum participation limit for the final approval of the constitutional project.