Despite low turn-out, Tunisian president Kais Saied claims victory in constitutional referendum

Only around 30% of voters turned up for the referendum on a new constitution for Tunisia. However, the government of Kais Saied claimed that over 94% of those who voted were in favor of the new document

July 27, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Tunisia referendum
(President Kais Saied. (Photo: Anadolu Agency)

Despite a low voter turnout, the Tunisian government claimed on Tuesday, July 26, that the overwhelming majority of the people had approved the new constitution in a referendum held on Monday. However, according to the Independent High Authority for Elections in Tunisia (IHAE), only around 30% of all eligible voters in the country participated in the referendum, of which 94.6% voted in favor of the new constitution and 5.4% voted against.

Even before the final results were announced, President Kais Saied declared victory, claiming that the majority of voters had approved the constitution, saying that “this is a total break with a system forever rejected,” AP reported. According to the IHAE, out of a total of 9.27 million eligible voters, close to 2.7 million turned up to vote on Monday.  

The government’s claims were rejected by the opposition which called the draft constitution “authoritarian” and accused President Saied of plotting a coup against the democratic system created after much sacrifice during the 2011 revolution. The opposition had given a boycott call for the referendum and claimed that the low voter participation showed that most Tunisians had followed this call. 

The Tunisian Workers’ Party issued a statement on its social media page claiming that an overwhelming majority of Tunisian voters had rejected the “illegitimate constitution” by not participating in the referendum. It claimed that despite carrying out multiple manipulations, the government had failed to win legitimacy. It warned against attempts to impose the illegitimate new constitution on the people and demanded “a national, democratic, social alternative project to save our country and people.”

Major opposition parties like Ennahda and the National Salvation Front that had given the boycott call, organized a press briefing on Tuesday and asked the president to step down from power and hold early national and presidential elections. Ahmed Najib Chebi, head of the National Salvation Front, claimed that “75% of voters refused to vote and give their approval to the process of the president and the false legitimacy of an authoritarian constitution,” TAP reported.  

President Saied had claimed that the new constitution will be implemented irrespective of the outcome of the referendum.