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Saied Handed New "Strongman" Constitution

A Tunisian demonstrator waves a Tunisian flag during a rally in support of Tunisian President Kais Saied in Tunis, Tunisia, Sunday, May 8, 2022.

The head of Tunisia's constitution committee delivered the draft of a new constitution to President Kais Saied on Monday, the presidency said, with expectations that the document will grant more powers to President Kais Saied, whose actions have triggered both mass protests and support

With his new constitution in-hand, President Kais Saied intends to put it to a referendum on July 25, though the opposition has said it will boycott the plebiscite. Thousands of Tunisians protested against the referendum in the capital over the weekend.

Sources told Reuters the draft document given to Saied includes some chapters of the 2014 constitution, especially on freedoms, while the main focus will be on economic aspects.

They added that the draft proposes a system with a powerful president who appoints the prime minister.

Saied, who seized executive power last year, said on Monday some chapters of the new constitution needed amendments, without specifying the details.

"The next constitution of Tunisia won't mention a state with Islam as its religion, but of belonging to an umma (community) which has Islam as its religion," Saied told reporters.

"The umma and the state are two different things."

Saied named law professor Sadok Belaid to draft the new constitution, without including Tunisia's main political parties such as the Islamist Ennahda and Free Constitutional parties. Deans of universities refused to join the committee.

The powerful UGTT union also refused to participate in talks for the new constitution, saying the outcome had already been decided. Only some experts and small parties took part in talks.

Under the 2014 constitution, which enjoyed broad support, parliament had a big role and could withdraw confidence from the government. The winning party in parliamentary elections named a prime minister who formed the government.