Tunisian president announces constitutional referendum and general elections in 2022

The constitutional referendum is scheduled to be held on July 25, 2022, exactly a year after president Kais Saied took control of all executive and legislative powers in Tunisia through a series of exceptional measures. Critics and opposition political parties have called his actions a “presidential coup”

December 14, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Tunisia president
Kais Saied (Photo: aa.com.tr)

On Monday, December 13, Tunisian president Kais Saied announced that a constitutional referendum will be held in the country in July 2022 followed by general elections in December. The parliament will remain suspended until a new one is elected. Before the constitutional referendum, the government will hold public consultations from January 1 to March 20 to seek suggestions from the general public regarding changes to be made to the constitution. Saied added that he will appoint a committee of experts to draft the new constitution which will be ready by June next year, a month before the scheduled referendum.

The referendum will be held on July 25, exactly a year after president Kais Saied took control of all executive and legislative powers in Tunisia through a series of exceptional measures, including dismissing the prime minister and the entire cabinet and suspending the parliament. Several rights groups and political opposition have called his actions an “unconstitutional presidential coup”. In the subsequent months, Saied suspended parts of the constitution to allow himself to rule the country by issuing decrees. He also appointed Tunisia’s first woman prime minister, Najla Bouden Romdhane, for the interim period until the formation of the next government. July 25 is also observed as Tunisia’s Republic day. The parliamentary elections are tentatively scheduled to be held on December 17, 2022. 

In a televised speech to the country, Saied said, “We want to correct the paths of the revolution and history,” adding that constitutions are not eternal. He went on to say that “the people exercise their sovereignty in the framework of the constitution. So if it’s not possible for the sovereign people to practice their rights in the framework of a text, then there needs to be a new text.” According to news reports, Saied has been a vocal opponent of the 2014 Tunisian constitution which was written in the years following the 2011 Tunisian revolution that overthrew the authoritarian regime of dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

In the years since the 2011 revolution, Tunisia has been plagued by a myriad of political and socio-economic issues, prominent among them being constant political infighting among the various political parties, endemic corruption, as well as a gradually declining economy which has left millions of Tunisians unemployed. The breakout of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and its mishandling by the government under ex-prime minister Hechim Mechichi led to a rise in public anger. Several protests and demonstrations were witnessed across the country demanding the government to ensure the health and well being of Tunisians.

However, the arbitrary dismissal of the government by the president in July has left the country headless in the middle of a deadly crisis and given rise to fears of impending political and social chaos, with many warning that Tunisia may descend back to a dictatorship or civil war. Prominent political parties like Ennahda (the largest party in the parliament), Democratic Current party, civil society groups and labor unions, including the country’s largest union UGTT, have denounced the president’s actions and called upon him to restore the parliament and bring the country back under constitutional democratic rule.

× To Subscribe