Tunisian president seeks more powers in new constitution

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TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisian President Kais Saied on Friday unveiled a new draft constitution that would bestow broad powers to the president and curtail the authority of the prime minister and parliament.

A referendum on the constitution is scheduled for July 25, exactly to the day when a year earlier Saied suspended parliament and seized power. He said the move was necessary to “save the country” from political and economic crisis, prompting strong criticism from the opposition, which accuses him of slide toward totalitarianism.

Several organizations, including the powerful central trade union, the UGTT, have deplored the absence of a public dialogue in preparing the new constitution, which they have dubbed “the Constitution of Kais Saied.”

The draft text, published late Thursday night, would give the president greater executive power than the prime minister and establish a bicameral parliamentary system for the first time.

That would be a big shift from the current constitution, which was seen as groundbreaking when it was passed in 2014 after consultations with multiple groups.

The 2014 constitution sought to limit presidential power after the Arab Spring protests put an end to 23 years of unchallenged reign by former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. He was overthrown in 2011 by a popular revolt in Tunisia which triggered a similar movement in several countries of the region against autocratic leaders.

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