Tunisia -Thousands of Tunisians rallied in the capital on Sunday, the country’s independence day, to protest President Kais Saied‘s proposed constitutional revisions and consultations. According to AFP reporters, protesters chanted “the people want to remove the president” and “no to consultations.” The Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party and the “Citizens Against the Coup” campaign organized the protest.
It’s the latest in a string of protests in the North African country after Saied seized a slew of powers following the dismissal of the administration and the suspension of parliament on July 25. The action has been labeled a “coup,” and rights activists have warned that the country, widely regarded as the only democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring uprisings, is on the verge of becoming autocratic.People in Tunis’s Bardo neighborhood took to the streets on Sunday, many of them waving their national flags. They tried to get to parliament, but a huge police presence kept them from getting there.
“We will not accept the consultation findings, this charade against the people,” said Samira Chaouachi, the frozen parliament’s vice president. The findings of an online poll held by Saied in January to assist with the rewriting of the country’s constitution will be presented to an expert committee on Sunday. According to official data, only 508,000 individuals have voted so far, or around 7% of the seven million eligible voters.
A vote on the constitutional revisions, which Saied thinks will strengthen his position, is set for July, one year after his power grab, with parliamentary elections in December. Demonstrators chanted Sunday, ridiculing the poor turnout: “Our condolences to the constitution, President Saied.” Technical problems and attempts by the old system to stop the experiment were to blame for the low turnout, said Saied, a clear reference to Ennahdha, the party he has been feuding with for a long time.
Demonstrators also demanded the release of Abderrazek Kilani, the former leader of the bar association, who was arrested in early March on allegations of “disturbing public order with the purpose of obstructing the application of the law” by a military court. Kilani is a member of the defense committee for Noureddine Bhiri, the former justice minister and top Ennahdha politician who has been living in a prison cell for the last month.