In accordance with his commitments, President Kaïs Saïed had the draft Constitution published in the Official Journal, which he will submit to a referendum on 25th July. The proposed version is a total overhaul of the fundamental law, which now essentially carries the vision of the president.
The proposal resulting from the work carried out by the Consultative Body set up was not taken into account. “We have the impression that it was staged to compensate for the lack of debate,” said a member of Mourakiboune, an independent election monitoring body.
“Nobody asked for another Constitution. At the end of the national consultation, the citizens had voted for an amendment to the text, but Kaïs Saïed overrode”, recalls the former independent deputy Hatem Mliki.
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Since the submission by the Consultative Body of its proposal, the silence of the presidential palace for ten days has fueled all speculation. The country held its breath all day on June 30, without even knowing the content of the fundamental law project, opinion being already divided between those who support the Kais project. Saïed and those who are opposed to the concentration of powers in his hands.
Tunisia, country of the Islamic Umma
Articulated in 8 chapters on 17 pages, the constitutional project proposes a total overhaul of the system. The text is preceded by a preamble which returns to the demands of the revolution and castigates the mismanagement of governance since 2011, a recurring argument with Kaïs Saïed.
The preamble also refers to “the glorious past of a reforming country”, but begins emancipation on December 17, 2010, the date of the start of the popular uprising which will bring about the fall of the Ben Ali regime. The text refers to “reforms that have largely failed”, in the same terms as the Iranian Constitution of 1978.
First notable development: Kaïs Saïed chose to break with article 1 which provided that “Tunisia is a free, independent and sovereign state, Islam is its religion”, and which maintained a convenient ambiguity around the question of religious affiliation since independence.
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From now on, Tunisia is considered in articles 5, 6 and 7 as an integral part of the Islamic Oumma, the Arab community and the Greater Maghreb, a notion that has not been used for a long time. As if to better anchor the religious aspect, the text indicates that “the State alone must work towards the realization of the aims of Islam, and there is no longer any mention of the civil character of the State”, notes the jurist Chokri Mamoghli. “Kaïs Saïed brings the banner of Islam only to the State, the parties will no longer interfere with religion, but he founds a religious State”, analyzes a constitutional expert.
Concentration of powers
A few hours before the publication of the text, the political scientist Hamadi Redissi feared “that a presidential regime from the constitutional point of view is an individual dictatorship from the political point of view”. Kaïs Saïed went further and offered Tunisians a fundamental law that would make him, in practice, almost untouchable.
It is the keystone of the whole system, whose tasks it orchestrates. The government is an authority which obeys it alone and which does not have to answer for its action before third parties. The Assembly no longer has any power and ne can exert the withdrawal of confidence, nor require a rendering of accounts, the more so as the creation of a national regional and territorial Council consecrates the system of governance by the base dear to Kaïs Saïed.
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“The executive controls the legislature, there is no longer any separation of powers,” laments former MP Mondher Belhaj Ali. The new text reduces the judiciary to one function and excludes the possibility for judges to strike. The takeover also concerns the Constitutional Court, where magistrates, curiously experts in public law, appointed by the president will sit.
Chapter 3 and Articles 81 to 85 define the role of the Assembly and that of the National Regional Council which, according to Article 85, has “a function of control over the implementation of the budget and development plans” . In any case, “the law regulates the interactions between the Assembly of People’s Representatives and the National Regional and Territorial Council”. Chapter 4, relating to the executive function, lists, over nearly 25 articles, the very extensive prerogatives of the president and frames, in articles 101 and 102, his relations with the government he appoints and which must report to him. .
Less than a month to decide
Concerns also focused on freedoms and the status of women. The principles of equality seem to be renewed without being explained, just like the exercise of individual freedoms, which nevertheless remains framed by a code of morality whose content is unknown.
An element that adds to the perplexity, while the president affirms that the transitional measures and the state of exception will remain in force until the legislative elections of December 17, 2022. “Why legislative elections and with whom? “, asks a support of Kaïs Saïed who is disillusioned, while on social networks, an opposition movement to the project is taking shape and calls for a vote “No” in the referendum of July 25, 2022. There is less than a month left Tunisians to analyze the text and choose, or not, of adopt it.