Tunisians voted last week to amend the country’s constitution to centralize power in the hands of President Kais Saied, endorsing what opponents of the regime called a power grab. The constitutional amendment reduces parliament’s authority, gives the president unilateral power to appoint ministers and judges, and makes it impossible to impeach the president.
Since his election in 2019, Saeid has chipped away at the democracy Tunisia established following its 2011 uprising that triggered the so-called Arab Spring. Civil society groups, alarmed at Saied’s power grab, boycotted the vote, causing the referendum to pass with 95% support but just a 30% turnout.
Saied supporters hope an empowered president can act decisively to heal the North African nation’s ailing economy. Public sector spending has caused Tunisia’s debt to balloon in recent years, and there is a growing sense that an IMF or World Bank bailout will be needed to avoid a major economic crisis.