Tunisian president decrees a referendum for new constitution


FILE PHOTO: Tunisian then-presidential candidate Kais Saied speaks during an interview with Reuters in Tunis, Tunisia September 17, 2019. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed//File Photo

TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisian President Kais Saied issued on Wednesday a decree to call voters to a referendum on a new constitution on July 25, the official gazette said, ignoring the opposition's calls to reverse the controversial move.

Saied last week named law professor Sadok Belaid to head an advisory committee that included law and political science deans, to draft a new constitution for a "new republic," excluding political parties from restructuring the political system.

The main political parties have said they will boycott the unilateral restructuring of politics.

The powerful UGTT union also refused to take part in a limited dialog proposed by the president as he rewrites the constitution.‮ ‬The union said it would hold a national strike at state firms and public services.

‮ ‬Belaid said earlier on Wednesday he would go ahead with whomever participates in the panel after prominent academics refused to join it, raising fears the restructuring of the political system would not have a broad consensus.

The only question on the referendum will be: "Do you agree the new constitution?" the gazette said.

The gazette added that polling will start at 6 a.m. and end at 10 p.m. on July 25.

Saied, who took executive power and dissolved parliament to rule by decree, has since said he will replace the democratic 2014 constitution with a new constitution via referendum and hold new parliamentary elections in December.

The president's opponents accuse him of a coup that has undermined the democratic gains of the 2011 revolution that triggered the Arab spring, but he says his moves were legal and needed to save Tunisia from a prolonged political crisis.

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