|Hundreds of people demonstrate in Tunis against draft new constitution|
Hundreds of people demonstrated in Tunis against a new constitution that must be submitted to a referendum in July and the sacking of 57 judges by President Kais Saied. "The people want freedom of justice" and "Constitution, freedom and dignity" were slogans chanted by demonstrators who took to the streets after calls from the "National Salvation Front", an opposition coalition.
Two weeks ago the president held a "national dialogue" to draft a new constitution, in light of legislative elections scheduled for December. The dialogue was boycotted by the opposition, including the powerful trade union organization UGTT, which believes key civil society actors and political parties are excluded. UGTT leader Tabboubi said he was "targeted" by authorities after refusing to participate in talks on a new constitution, according to Reuters. Sources close to the organization confirmed concerns that the president would use the judiciary to target unions. And on June 11, Tunisian police arrested journalist Salah Attia for telling Al Jazeera that Kais Saied had asked the army to close down the union headquarters and put its leaders under house arrest.
Yesterday thousands of supporters of the Free Destouriano Party, led by "passionary" Abir Moussi, were also in the square to express their opposition to holding a constitutional referendum on July 25. Moussi in his speech denounced the "abuse" of the Electoral Commission as requested by Saied, complaining about his party's exclusion from the National Dialogue and from the preparation of a draft constitution. What happened in Tunisia more than 10 years after the start of the Jasmine Revolution (17 December 2010 when activist Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire after police mistreatment)? Are we facing another possible revolution? On Thursday 16 June the entire North African nation was paralyzed by a general strike in the public sector, which affected 159 public administrations and companies and involved some three million workers.
Flights were cancelled, transportation was blocked, post offices, pharmacies and universities were closed. The public sector protested the head of state's decision to freeze wages and cut subsidies, protecting the government's deal to secure a four billion dollar loan from the International Monetary Fund. Protesters in Tunis responded to calls from opposition organisations, including the Islam-inspired Ennahdha party, chanting "the constitution, freedom and dignity".
Broadcaster France 24 reported it . Human rights groups condemned Saied's dismissal of 57 judges as a "huge blow to the independence of the judiciary".
The new constitution is at the core of Saied's reform plans and is expected to be brought to a referendum one year after the sacking of the government and the suspension of parliament. Since then Saied has gradually and steadily extended his takeover, including by dissolving parliament in March. "The referendum is nothing more than a fraud," said Ali Larayedh, the leader of Ennahdha, which is the largest party in parliament and a key player in the government sacked by the president.
"We are demonstrating against judicial exclusion and against coups targeting the constitution," he said. The 2014 constitution, a hard-won compromise between Ennahdha and its secular rivals, created a system in which the president and parliament have executive power. It was adopted three years after the 2011 revolution in the North African country.