Tunisians protest draft constitution; call it “a coup”

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Small but loud protests took place Saturday in the Tunisian capital of Tunis ahead of a referendum Monday on President Kais Saied’s proposed new constitution — a document that critics say helps legitimize him his takeover, which they call “a blow.”

On Saturday, a few hundred people marched on Avenue Bourguiba, the capital’s main artery, to denounce proposals to modify the constitution to increase presidential powers and reduce the role of parliament and the prime minister. During sometimes violent clashes with the police, around ten people were arrested.

Protester Faouzi Ben Brahim told The Associated Press that “people have come together today because they are aware of the dangers of the referendum, which intends to put in place a constitution of an autocratic president who neither recognizes nor respects institutions and has no intention of being accountable.”

Another protester held a banner that read “No to a constitution of intimidation, no to a constitution of fait accompli”.

Saied suspended parliament last year and grabbed sweeping powers in a move he said was needed to “save the country” from a political and economic crisis. This has drawn criticism from the opposition, who accuse him of fleeing democracy and dragging the North African country towards totalitarianism.

Bouazza Ben Bouazza, The Associated Press