New Tunisian constitution gets 94 pct. approval, but with 70 pct. absenteeism

Tunis, Jul 26 (EFE).- Tunisia’s new constitution, designed by President Kais Saied and voted on in a nationwide referendum on Monday, received 94.6 percent approval among those casting ballots, but just 30.5 percent of the 9.2 million eligible voters went to the polls, including those living abroad.

On Tuesday, even before the final – but expected – results were announced, the political opposition rejected the process, calling it “illegitimate” and demanding Saied’s resignation.

The results represent the greatest voter absenteeism – almost 70 percent – in any nationwide balloting after the country’s transition to democracy, although for this referendum 2.4 million citizens had been automatically registered to vote after the official registration period had ended.

Last April, Saied had issued a decree modifying the ISIE national elections board, tasked with monitoring the current vote, after which both national and international organizations questioned its neutrality.

The ISIE on Monday acknowledged that Saied’s remarks upon leaving one of the polling places could have been an infraction of voting laws, although it denied that those remarks had influenced any votes.

The social-democratic opposition, the Salvation Front – which includes progressive and liberal parties along with the Islamist Ennahda party – and the Free Destourian Party (PDL), made up of those nostalgic for the old regime, claimed that the process was “illegitimate.”

“The great majority of Tunisians (75 percent) do not support Saied, once again; what he did was a coup d’etat, is illegal and is unpopular,” said the Citizens Against the Coup movement linked to the Salvation Front.

Meanwhile, PDL leader Amir Moussi, whose party supported the president when he declared a state of emergency a year ago, said that regardless of the voter participation rate “70 percent, 200 percent or 4,000 percent, the process is fraudulent, illegal and illegitimate.”

“We don’t recognize it and we will not adhere to it,” he warned.

No required lower threshold had been established for the vote, and thus experts are questioning the legitimacy of the balloting in establishing the new national charter.

Among those who voted “yes,” 24 percent said they did so to improve the overall situation in Tunisia, 23 percent to support the head of state and 17 percent to punish the ruling class, according to Sigma, a Tunisian public opinion firm, which had estimated that 92.3 percent of the votes would be for the “yes” option.

Just 13 percent of “yes” voters said they were convinced of the benefit of the constitutional plan, while 11 said they voted as they did to reject the Islamist party that has governed directly or indirectly since 2011.

Four percent voted “yes” to defend the presidential system and 3 percent in order to dissolve Parliament, which was done last March.

Saied on Monday said that the next step will be to approve a new election law that will govern the Dec. 17 elections and which, for the first time, will be based on single-member lists instead of parties, which he has said he considers to be “obsolete.”

This will be the final phase of Saied’s roadmap for the state of emergency, which has remained in place for the past year, once the new bicameral Parliament is formed.

The new constitutional text, which experts say introduces an “ultrapresidential” system with no separation of powers, replacing the 2014 Constitution, will enter into force after the publication of the definitive results of the referendum on Aug. 28, following the period during which people may file objections to it.

EFE lfp-nrm/cd/bp

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