Tunisia launches wide-ranging national consultation on reforms

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Tunisia TunisiaTunisia’s Ministry of Technology announced on Saturday that wide-ranging national consultations will contribute to the drafting of a new constitution.

The exercise, which is part of President Kais Saied’s reform package aimed at bolstering his power, invites individuals to submit comments and will run through March 20. Eligible subjects include electoral, economic, financial, social, developmental, health, education, and cultural matters. The constitutional referendum will take place on July 25, 2022, one year after Saied deposed the government, suspended parliament, and assumed broad powers.

The Ministry of Technology said the consultation – dubbed ‘Your Opinion, Our Decision’ – initially targets youth centers through an online platform across 24 regions in the country. “From January 15, the platform will be available to everyone,” it stated. Citizens will also be able to voice their opinions in local committees, while just 45 percent of Tunisian houses have Internet access.

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Critics say the decision highlights the president’s “populist” strategy , which helped him win a landslide 73 percent of the vote in 2019. Saied’s one-man campaign to repair Tunisia’s shattered democratic systems has provoked charges that he is constructing a new autocrat in the cradle of the Arab Spring.

Military trials of opposition individuals on allegations such as “insulting the president” have been cited by rights groups. Plainclothes detectives detained a top leader of the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha, one of the country’s biggest political parties, on Friday. The arrest of Noureddine Bhiri was condemned by the party as “a abduction and a terrible precedent that marks the country’s admission into a dictatorship tunnel.”

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