Tunisia begins vote on new constitution

Tunisians vote in a referendum on a draft constitution put forward by the country s President, at a polling station in the capital Tunis, on July 25, 2022. /AFP

Tunisians began voting on a new constitution that, if passed, could expand the powers of the president. However, many personal freedoms currently enjoyed by Tunisians will remain intact.

Tunisians vote in a referendum on a draft constitution put forward by the country s President, at a polling station in the capital Tunis, on July 25, 2022. /AFP

Under the new charter, the president appoints the prime minister, as well as other cabinet members, based on a proposal from the prime minister – a big departure from the current system that gives parliament precedence in picking governments.

Article 112 of the proposed new constitution says the government is responsible to the president, while Article 87 says the president exercises the executive function with the assistance of the government.

Article 102 gives the president the power to terminate either the government or any of its members.

Other sections weaken the powers of parliament and give the president immunity throughout his tenure.

However, similar to the existing constitution, the new one pledges to protect rights and freedoms including the right to form political parties and to protest. It says freedom of opinion and publication is guaranteed, as is freedom of belief.

It also says the state guarantees equality for men and women, that the state will work to guarantee women’s representation in elected bodies, and that it will take measures to combat violence against women.

Article 55 says no restrictions will be put on rights and freedoms “except by virtue of a law and for the necessity of national defence or public security”.

Critics fear the new constitution will hamper the democratic gains made by Tunisians since 2011.

Saied has hailed his changes as the foundation of a new republic and will end years of political gridlock and economic stagnation.

The polls will close at 2100 GMT, however, it is not clear when results will be announced.