Tunisian President Kais Saied on Tuesday defended his controversial draft constitution against allegations of authoritarian drift after being discredited by the lawyer he had entrusted with drafting it.
Sadok Belaïd, head of the commission responsible for drafting the new constitution, had submitted his project to Mr Saied on June 20, but the latter published a completely revised version on Thursday, introducing a presidential system that gives very wide powers to the chairman of the State without real protective measures.
In a thunderous performance, Mr Belaïd, a respected jurist, said in a letter published by the press on Sunday that Mr Saied’s version had nothing to do with the version he had given him and warned that the project, the July 25 referendum could “pave the way to a dictatorial regime.”
In a statement released on Tuesday by the Presidency of the Republic, Mr Saied defended himself, saying that the published draft constitution reflects “what the Tunisian people have expressed since the revolution (of 2011) until July 25, 2021, when he again the right way was set up”.
On that day, after months of political deadlock, Mr Saied had suspended parliament and sacked the government to assume full powers, shaking the fledgling democracy in the country that launched the 2011 Arab Spring revolts.
“The Constitution proposed to you reflects the spirit of the revolution and in no way violates rights and freedoms,” he added in his message.
He dismissed accusations that the proposed constitution paved the way for “a return to tyranny” and said “nothing could be further from the truth”.
Finally, he urged Tunisians to adopt the text during the July 25 referendum, which coincides with the first anniversary of his coup d’état.
“Say ‘yes’ to prevent the decline of the state, so that the goals of the revolution can be realized and we end misery, terrorism, hunger, injustice and suffering,” he said, he writes.