On December 10, 2021, Tunisian President Kais Saied announced his intention to abolish the country’s 2014 democratic constitution, and, in a televised speech three days later, called for a new constitutional referendum that would take place in July 2022. Saied also declared that the referendum would be followed by parliamentary elections by the end of 2022 and that the parliament would remain suspended until December 2022.
President Saied has stated that he would appoint a committee of experts to draft a new constitution, as well as hold online consultations to obtain public opinion about the new constitution. The online portal would be available by early 2022. The ideas and opinions gathered through this online venue would be transferred to the committee of experts. The committee is to finalize the draft of the new constitution by June 2022, before the referendum is held the following month.
Saied was elected president in 2019 in a landslide victory. He dismissed the cabinet and suspended the parliament in July 2021, and the following September issued Presidential Decree No. 117 of 2021 to maintain the suspension of powers of the parliament. The decree suspended judicial immunity for members of the parliament as well.
Reactions to the President’s Decision
The Ennahda Islamist movement has rejected President Saied’s call to abolish the current constitution, arguing that Saied’s attempt to abolish the current constitution and create a new one would cause a crisis of legitimacy and negatively affect the political stability and future of the country.
The online group Citizens Against the Coup called on social media for countrywide protests to begin December 17, 2021, to oppose President Saied’s decision to abolish the 2014 constitution.Some legal scholars, such as Jaouhar ben Mbarek, a professor of public law at the faculty of juridical sciences at the University of Tunis, oppose President Saied as well. Professor ben Mbarek claims that the president is continuing to attack the constitution and take measures to consolidate the powers of all three branches of government — judicial, executive, and legislative — in his hands to change the country’s political system. Moreover, ben Mbarek has voiced his concerns about the president’s decision to transfer the responsibility of supervising elections from the ministry of local affairs to the ministry of interior (homeland security).