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Tunisia: Hundreds protest draft constitution ahead of vote

July 23, 2022

Tunisia will vote on the proposed constitution in a referendum on Monday. Protesters have called for an end to the rule of President Kais Saied.

Protesters in Tunisia gathering against referendum
Opponents have called for a complete boycott of the referendumImage: Zoubeir Souissi/REUTERS

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in central Tunis on Saturday to protest a draft constitution introduced by President Kais Saied. Tunisia will vote on the proposed charter on Monday. 

"Stop autocratic rule!" yelled protesters gathered on the main street in central Tunis.

"A year has passed and Saied has failed to manage the country and present a clear vision," Ennahda spokesperson Imed Khemiri told the crowd. 

Ennahda is Tunisia's main opposition party. The self-defined Islamist group is part of an anti-referendum coalition that organized Saturday's protests. 

"The Tunisian people will deal a major blow to Saied on the day of the illegal referendum and will prove to him that it is not interested in his populist path," said Nejib Chebb, who is head of the coalition. 

Police were present at the protests but there were no reports of violence. 

People take part in a protest against President Kais Saied's referendum on a new constitution, in Tunis, Tunisia
Protesters have accused Saied of carrying out a "coup"Image: Zoubeir Souissi/REUTERS

Tear gas and riot gear at Friday protests 

However, at least 10 people were arrested at anti-referendum demonstrations on Friday. Police came to the gathering with water cannons and riot gear. 

Officers reportedly "roughly blocked” protesters' passage as they moved toward a police barrier that was blocking the interior ministry building.

A police officer said that the confrontation was prompted by people who "purposely moved towards the ministry because they sought provocation."

Mehdi Jelassi, head of the SNJT journalists' union, received treatment after being sprayed in the face with tear gas, Jelassi told AFP news agency. 

"Whether the constitution passes or not, our struggle will continue until the fall of this new tyrant," said Hamma Hammami, head of the far-left Workers' Party. "We are not afraid of prison, torture or death."

If passed, President Saied's draft constitution would reduce the role of the parliament and judiciary by replacing the current mixed-parliamentary system in the North African country. 

asw/wd (Reuters/AFP)