Tunisia’s President Cheers Outcome of Controversial Referendum  

Tunisian President Kais Saied and his supporters are celebrating the apparent adoption of his controversial new constitution, following a referendum Monday. But turnout for the vote was low and the opposition is disputing the results.

Tunisian President Kais Saied promised a new “phase” for his country as he met cheering supporters. He called the results of Monday’s referendum an historic moment that offered lessons for the world.

But President Saied’s political opponents, who called on supporters to boycott the vote, see things differently.

Samira Chaouachi, president of the Heart of Tunisia party and vice president of Tunisia’s now-dissolved parliament, questioned the turnout and numbers presented by Saied’s appointed election commission. She said the opposition would do its own check. Either way, she said the low voter turnout, whether out of opposition or indifference, stripped the draft charter of legitimacy.

 

President Saied says his new constitution, designed to create a strong presidency, dilute legislative powers and establish a new regional assembly, will end the political gridlock that has gripped Tunisia for years.

The opposition fears it will consolidate his one-man rule that began a year ago, when Saied seized far-reaching powers, dissolving government and firing dozens of judges.

Tunis University professor Hamadi Redissi says the outcome threatens the country’s fledgling democracy.

“Probably this is not the end of the transition, but it is a big step back. Next, we have no idea.”

But voters like furniture salesman Adel Zine are happy with the results.

Still, he believes President Saied can’t rule on his own — he lacks experience. If he becomes a dictator, Zine adds, voters will kick him out.

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