Tunisians vote on the Constitution on Monday
Tunisians vote Monday on a constitution seen as a referendum on President Kais Saied, whose charter would give his office nearly unchecked powers.
Voting takes place from 06:00 (05:00 GMT) to 22:00 at some 11,000 polling stations across the North African country.
About 9.3 million of Tunisia’s 12 million people – civilians over the age of 18 – chose to vote or were automatically registered to vote, according to the ISIE electoral commission.
They include around 356,000 registered overseas, for whom voting began on Saturday, AFP reported.
The referendum comes a year to the day after Saied sacked the government and froze parliament in a dramatic power grab, as Tunisia grappled with rising coronavirus cases on top of political and economic crises.
Many Tunisians hailed his actions against political parties and the often deadlocked parliament, part of a system long hailed as the only democracy to emerge from the 2011 Arab uprisings.
No quorum was set, nor any provision made for a “no” result, and Saied’s constitution for a “new republic” is expected to be adopted.
Opposition parties and civil society groups called for a boycott, while the powerful UGTT union took no formal position on the vote.
Saied’s charter would replace the country’s 2014 constitution.
His supporters blame the hybrid parliamentary-presidential system he introduced, and the dominant Islamist-influenced Ennahdha party, for years of political crises and widespread corruption.
Saied’s draft was released earlier this month. The new text would place the head of state in supreme command of the army, give him full executive control and allow him to appoint a government without parliamentary approval.
He could also present bills to parliament, which would be obliged to give them priority.
It would be nearly impossible to impeach him before his five-year term ends in 2024.
Saied, a 64-year-old law professor, won a landslide victory in the 2019 presidential elections, building on his image as incorruptible and alienated from the political elite.
He has sworn to protect the freedoms of Tunisians and describes his political project as a “correction” and a return to the path of revolution.
“A lot of young people, the marginalized and the excluded, are on his side,” said political scientist Hamadi Redissi.