Hundreds of people gathered in Tunisia on Sunday for the second day in a row against President Kais Saied’s push for a constitutional referendum, which his critics claim will solidify his grip on power.
The Salvation Front, a coalition that includes the moderate Islamist Ennahda, the biggest party in a parliament that Saied disbanded in March, organized the protest.
It came after a similar demonstration held by the Free Constitutional Party on Saturday over the referendum, as well as a strike called by a prominent labor union on Thursday over the government’s economic reform plans, which brought most of the county to a halt.
Supporters of the president argue that he is standing up to elite forces whose mismanagement and corruption have led to a decade of political gridlock and economic stagnation in Tunisia.
On Saturday, the leader of the country’s constitution committee announced that he will give over the new draught of a “democratic constitution” to the president on Monday, ahead of a referendum on July 25.
The country’s major political parties have said that they will boycott the referendum. However, as evidenced by the weekend demonstrations, opposition to Saied remains split.
“Saied has to go”
Demonstrators gathered through central Tunis on Sunday, accompanied by a large police presence, to Avenue Habib Bourguiba.
“Saied has to go… Saied, the people on the streets are always against you”. “Judges are protesting because the UGTT (union) has gone on strike. Do you want to be the ruler of a people who despise you?”
Tunisian judges went on strike for the third week on Saturday in protest of Saied’s decision to dismiss 57 justices on June 1.
The president accused them of corruption and shielding terrorists, accusations that the Tunisian Judges’ Association dismissed as largely political.
After taking executive powers last summer and setting aside the 2014 constitution to rule by decree, Saied’s move heightened charges at home and internationally that he has reinforced the one-man rule.