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Tunisian Referendum Amendments Possible Return To Autocratic Rule

Umamah Bakharia 

Tunisians have voted in a referendum on a new constitution that critics of the president fear will dismantle the democracy after a 2011 revolution by handing him nearly total power.

The vote was held on the first anniversary of Kais Saied’s ousting of an elected parliament when he established emergency rule and began governing by fiat.

Speaking to Radio Islam, political analyst Ayesha Kajee says that even though there was a low voter turnout at the polls, the bill was still passed as those that did vote voted yes.

“Those that have voted in this referendum are of the opinion that Tunisia needs a strong ruler at the helm,” says Kajee. Those who have not voted “have essentially boycotted the referendum,” she adds.



Fewer than a third of Tunisians voted in the referendum, with 94.6% of those balloted supporting plans to hand President Kais Saied broad new powers.

But opposition groups, who boycotted the vote, said the results were “not credible” and “inflated”.

Tunisian electoral commission is yet to respond to comments on “fraud” allegations on the voting system.

However, even though a constitution was drafted in 2014, the new constitution will give Saied more powers. “The power to appoint parliament, make new laws, direct control over the army etc. that essentially Tunisia is going backwards towards an autocracy in terms of democratic norms,” says Kajee.

This comes as Tunisia faces a high percentage of unemployment and a failing economy where some cannot afford bread.


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