Middle East

‘Referendum decree on new constitution not binding’ 

The Secretary-General of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) Noureddine Taboubi expressed his view on Friday that the presidential decree relating to the referendum on a new constitution for the country, scheduled for next July, is “not binding”.

This came in a press statement on the margins of opening the works of the National Administrative Body on the Economic and Social Project of the UGTT (the largest trade union organisation in Tunisia).

“The presidential decree relating to urging voters to vote in the referendum on a new constitution for the country on 25 July is binding only those who have signed it and does not bind the UGTT,” Taboubi confirmed.

He added: “The UGTT will not participate in the national dialogue as long as the revisions that are capable of succeeding in the political discussion on the options and the situation in the country are absent.”

On Wednesday, President Kais Saied issued a decree calling voters to vote in a referendum on a new constitution for the country on 25 July, ignoring opposition calls to stop this controversial step.

The decree was issued five days after the issuance of another decree stipulating forming the National Consultative Commission for the New Republic, two consultative committees and one for the national dialogue, while all political parties were excluded from these committees. The function of the National Consultative Commission is to prepare for organising the referendum.

In another context, Taboubi stated: “It is paradoxical when the government confirms that it has made  great progress in negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on reforms, while the presidency says at the same time that it has established a body to discuss the economic and social conditions in the country.”

Tunisian Finance Minister Siham Nomsieh announced on Wednesday that her country’s government would hold consultations with the IMF in the coming weeks, intended to lead to the launch of official negotiations between the two sides.

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Subsequently, Tunisia’s watchdog I Watch organisation called on Tunisian voters, through a statement published on its official Facebook page, to “boycott the referendum.”

The organisation expressed its: “Full readiness to engage in struggle movements aiming at urging citizens not to participate in the farce of the constitution referendum. People cannot be bribed.”

The organisation added: “The constitution, which will be drafted by the representative of the families that have always monopolised wealth and power and benefited from every policy taken by the state, will not change the reality of Tunisians in any aspect,” with reference to Samir Majoul, the president of the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts UTICA.

The statement also called on lawyers: “To stand as an impregnable fortress with the interests of their profession, and to oppose the joining of the former head of Tunisia’s Bar Association Ibrahim Bouderbala, to the Consultative Committee for Economic and Social Affairs.”

The statement stressed: “The organisation’s refusal to hold a referendum in such difficult economic and social conditions will lead to dangerous pitfalls that will further complicate the situation.”

Since 25 July, Tunisia has witnessed a severe political crisis, when Saied imposed exceptional measures, including dismissing the government, dissolving parliament and the Supreme Judicial Council, and issuing legislation by presidential decrees.

Saied also decided to set an early date for parliamentary elections on 17 December and granted himself the right to appoint three of the seven members of the Independent High Authority for Elections, including its president.

Tunisian forces consider these measures a “coup against the constitution”, while other forces see them as a “correction of the course of the 2011 revolution.” While Saied, who started a five-year presidential term in 2019, considered his measures as “measures under the provisions of the constitution to protect the state from an imminent danger.”

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