Tunisian president announces two amendments to the draft constitution to avoid “misinterpretation”

Tunisian President Kais Saied presented late Friday two amendments to the draft of the new Constitution related to the country’s position on Islam and the rights and freedoms of citizens, with the aim of avoiding “misinterpretations”.

These modifications, however, do not change the articles which would grant wide powers to the head of state and which have been criticized by various organizations and by the Tunisian opposition.

“To err is human. Fortunately there is the possibility to correct and revise,” Saied has assured in a statement picked up by Kapitalis FM addressing the Tunisian people, affirming that democracy “will not be threatened as the critics claim.”

International organizations, NGOs and even Tunisia’s main opposition party, Ennahda, had come out against the new constitutional text, considering that it grants inordinate power to the head of state, which would put Tunisian democracy at risk.

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Faced with these claims, Saied has announced two changes to the constitutional draft with the intention of “avoiding any misinterpretation.”

Specifically, the new draft modifies Article 5 of the constitutional text in which the details that “Tunisia is an Islamic nation”, introducing the mention “within a democratic system”, as reported by Mosaique FM.

Amnesty International, as well as other organizations, had criticized that this article could “allow discrimination against other religious groups.”

On the other hand, Article 55, which determines the rights and freedoms of citizens, has also undergone changes. Previously, the constitutional text held that rights and freedoms could be restricted based on “the needs of public safety and public morals.” Now, the new draft assures that “no revision may prejudice the conquests and freedoms of the Human Rights guaranteed in this Constitution”.

The president of the High National Consultative Committee for the new Tunisian Republic, Sadok Belaid, denounced last Sunday that the text published in the official gazette and which will be submitted to referendum is not the one presented to Saied and warned that the powers given to the president “could open the way to a dictatorial regime”.

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For his part, Saied has defended the draft Constitution that will be submitted on July 25 to referendum, stressing that it does not pose a risk to the rights and freedoms of the population, so he encouraged citizens to vote ‘yes’.

If approved in referendum, the document will replace the Magna Carta adopted in 2014 in the wake of the 2011 overthrow of the then president, Zine el Abidine ben Ali, in the wake of a massive wave of popular protests in the so-called ‘Arab Spring’.

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