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Tunisian president wants 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 grant the president broad powers and limit the authority of the prime minister and parliament.

A referendum on the constitution is scheduled for July 25, the very day Saied suspended parliament a year earlier and took power. He said the move was necessary to “save the country” from a political and economic crisis, sparking strong criticism from the opposition, who accuse him of sliding towards totalitarianism.

Several organisations, including the powerful central trade union, the UGTT, have lamented the lack of public dialogue in the preparation of the new constitution, which they have called “Kais Saied’s Constitution”.

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

That would be a major shift from the current constitution, which was seen as groundbreaking after consultations with multiple political groups in 2014.

The 2014 constitution aimed to limit presidential power after Arab Spring protests ended 23 years of undisputed rule by former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. He was toppled in 2011 by a popular uprising in Tunisia that sparked a similar movement against autocratic leaders in several countries of the region.

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