“We refuse to vote for a Constitution written by a man”

Published in:

Two days before the constitutional referendum proposed by Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed, various opposition groups took turns in the streets of the capital to call for a boycott, in a climate of general apathy. Reporting.

“Kaïs out!”, “We refuse the Constitution of a single person” or even “Freedom, freedom!”. Two days before a constitutional referendum, Avenue Bourguiba, in the center of Tunis, lived to the rhythm of demonstrations against the controversial initiative of President Kaïs Saïed of Tunisia.

More than a thousand demonstrators stepped on this major artery of the capital on Saturday July 23, while a rally of 300 people took place the day before. Moderate in size compared to the humanitarian currents of the 2011 revolution, these demonstrations illustrate two key points of the current situation in Tunisia: a great apathy of the population and a continuous division of the political opposition. A year after the dissolution of the Parliament, the Head of State thus hopes to approve a new Constitution that will allow him to enjoy many rights without having to give accounts.

>> Tunisia: Kaïs Saïed’s constitutional reform is under fire from critics

“I will boycott the July 25 referendum in order not to give the least legitimacy to this process,” said Nasser Bejawi, a civil servant at the Ministry of Finance, who carried a poster against electoral fraud. “I’m sure there are frauds, to give the impression of a higher turnout and to ensure that the ‘yes’ to the new Constitution wins,” added the 59-year-old. , who is also responsible for the Islamic-conservative Ennahda party of the governor of Bizerte.

Nasser Bejawi, center, with his sign against election fraud, during a demonstration on July 23, 2022. © Mehdi Chebil

“I will not vote for a Constitution written by a man. We will no longer accept being led by a dictator like Kaïs Saïed”, added Zyneb *, a middle-aged woman who claimed who appeared “for Tunisia , and not just for the party.”

“I saw that the people who demonstrate yesterday are attacked by the police, we cannot accept that,” he added, referring to the viral images of the arrests on social networks.

At the moment protesters try to force a police blockade near the Interior Ministry on July 22, 2022 in Tunis.
At the moment protesters try to force a police blockade near the Interior Ministry on July 22, 2022 in Tunis. © Mehdi Chebil

In fact, the demonstration of the previous day was not dispersed at the initiative of the police. The situation only worsened when part of the demonstrators tried to remove the barriers leading to the Ministry of the Interior.

But these images of arrests overshadowed the weak mobilization of the July 22 demonstration, which was supported by the National Campaign Against the Referendum. This movement, which unites five small political parties and several civil society organizations, refuses to associate with the Ennahda party.

Arrest of protesters during a demonstration on July 22, 2022 in Tunis.
Arrest of protesters during a demonstration on July 22, 2022 in Tunis. Mehdi CHEBIL

One of the demonstrators on July 22 proudly held a sign that simultaneously denounced Tunisian President Kais Saied and Ennahda party leader Rached Ghannouchi.

“We rejected the heads or tails of Tunisian politics, which imposed the rule of one man on us. This is what Ghannouchi tried to do through the Parliament and Kaïs Saïed through his Constitution”, confirmed Hamza Khelifi * , the 36-year-old man held up the sign. “The demarcation must be clear between us and the demonstrators of Ennahda, a party that has ruled for ten years”, he concluded.

Hamza Khelifi* during the demonstration on July 22:
Hamza Khelifi * during the demonstration on July 22: “Unfortunately, everything is in place for Tunisia to return to dictatorship.” © Mehdi Chebil

The anger towards the Islamic-conservative party therefore fuels the division of the opposition in Tunisia, which is now divided into four poles that refuse to cooperate with each other: the National Campaign against the Referendum (mentioned above), the National Salvation Front (FSN), which includes several parties including Ennahda, as well as independent political figures, and the Free Destourian Party, an anti-Islamist movement that plays on nostalgia for the Ben Ali era. These three posts call for a boycott of the July 25 referendum. The fourth opposition party, Afek Tounes, stood by calling for a vote against the new Constitution.

Fractured Opposition

In fact, most opponents expect more abstentions. The call for a boycott is justified, according to them, by the desire not to give even an ounce of legitimacy to the seizure of power by President Kais Saied since his coup last year. As a bonus, the opposition can claim, more or less honestly, that it has the leading party in Tunisia with it – the disaffected and the abstainers.

“Kaïs Saïed will pass his Constitution with a very low participation rate and a very high approval rate. We have been used to these tricks of the popular will since the dawn of time”, testified Ahmed Néjib Chebbi, a veteran member of Tunisian politics. on FSN, during an interview with France 24 on the sidelines of the demonstration last Saturday.

Ahmed Néjib Chebbi during the demonstration on July 23, 2022:
Ahmed Néjib Chebbi during the demonstration on July 23, 2022: “The observations of diplomats and foreign journalists on the weak mobilization are unfair. Usually the social fight mobilizes the masses, not the political fights. “ © Mehdi Chebil

This eternal rival called for the widest possible union, beyond the political divisions of the past ten years.

“The threat now is Kaïs Saïed, not Ennahda! I am one of the rare politicians who remained opposed to Ennahda for the past ten years. In fact it is an ideological formation that tried to enter the State, but during these ten years, no one has been banned from traveling, no meeting has been banned, and no fundamental freedom has been hindered, precisely because the checks and balances of the 2014 Constitution have worked well. To be beaten, you just have to wait for the next election”, insisted Ahmed Néjib Chebbi.

“Now, the only way out is an inclusive national dialogue, which orders a public safety government to organize early presidential and legislative elections,” concluded the veteran of the political scene. “Otherwise, it’s chaos… nothing can be rejected in Tunisia!”

*Names have been changed at the request of interviewees.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.