Tunisian constitution writers say Saied made major changes to final draft

Sadok Belaid, head of the drafting committee, said the document published on Thursday had been altered from the one presented to the president 10 days earlier

Sadok Belaid, left, the head of Tunisia’s constitution committee, submitting a draft of the new constitution to President Kais Saied, at Carthage Palace in Tunis.  AFP
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Tunisia's proposed new constitution released by President Kais Saied does not resemble the draft submitted to him, the head of the constitution writing committee told local media.

Sadok Belaid, a former constitutional law professor appointed by Mr Saied to draft a “new constitution for a new republic”, told the Assabeh newspaper that the version published in the official gazette on Thursday was “dangerous” and could pave the way for “a disgraceful dictatorial regime”.

He also released the full text of the draft he said he presented to Mr Saied on June 20, also printed in Assabeh, which differs greatly from the proposed constitution Mr Saied published.

Mr Belaid is the second member of the drafting committee to point out alterations to the draft.

“This is not the constitution that I saw before it was presented to the president of the republic,” Ibrahim Bouderbela, one of the legal scholars on the committee, told Shem FM radio on Friday.

In an interview with The National hours before the new document was published, Mr Bouderbela praised the new constitution, saying the structure the committee proposed would hold the executive “accountable for both successes and failures”, something he said the current constitution did not.

The version released by Mr Saied sweeps away checks and balances on the executive branch, makes the judiciary a “function” of the state rather than a separate authority, and waters down the role of the legislative branch.

Mr Belaid said its proposal to limit membership of the Constitutional Court to judges named by the president would undermine its independence.

One article says that “in case of the imminent danger, the president can extend his term”.

Mr Saied last year cited an “imminent danger” clause in the current constitution to dismiss the government and assume executive powers.

The draft constitution will be put to a referendum this month. It is meant to replace the 2014 constitution that was drawn up by a constituent assembly after mass protests forced long-time leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to step down in 2011.

Mr Saied has not commented on the constitution since he published the text. Under its provisions, the powers of the president would increase while those of parliament and the judiciary would be diminished.

It also provides for creation of a National Council of Regions and Districts as a second chamber of parliament, but gives no details about how it would be elected or what powers it would have.

Updated: July 03, 2022, 4:05 PM