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New Constitution Not "Strongman Rule": Saied

FILE:Tunisia's President Kais Saied gives a speech at the Carthage Palace outside the capital Tunis, Tunisia 2.27.2020

Tunisia's president said on Tuesday his proposed constitution would not restore authoritarian rule, hitting back at criticism from across the political spectrum and urging people to support it in this month's referendum.

Tunisia President Kais Saied, ousted the elected parliament last summer to rule by decree in a step his foes call a coup, has published a draft of a new constitution that would greatly expand his powers while weakening checks on his actions.

Saied issued a statement saying the proposed new constitution posed no danger to Tunisians' rights and freedoms.

He also claims the new document would remedy the nation's problems.

"Everyone knows what Tunisia has suffered for decades, especially the last decade. They emptied state coffers. The poor got poorer, the corrupt got richer," Said said, accusing critics of his constitution of "slanders, far from reality."

Most political parties and civil society groups oppose his constitution, saying it was drawn up unilaterally and will lack legitimacy as Tunisians have less than four weeks to decide on it and there is no minimum rate of participation for it to pass.

Even Sadok Belaid, the head of the committee Saied convened to prepare the first draft of his constitution which the president then rewrote, said this weekend that the president's version was "dangerous and paves the way for a disgraceful dictatorial regime".

Sadok Belaid, the committee head, said the version Saied had presented did not resemble the draft the committee had prepared.

In counter, the president's supporters say he is standing up to elite forces whose bungling and corruption have condemned Tunisia to a decade of political paralysis and economic stagnation.