Tunisia coalition seeks political change through referendum

New Tunisia coalition calls for referendum to change political system
2 min read
29 June, 2021
A new coalition of parties and organisations in Tunisia is seeking to overhaul the country's political system through a popular referendum.
Tunisia is reeling under both a political and economic crisis [Getty]

A group of Tunisian organisations and political parties announced on Monday the formation of the "Referendum Front" coalition to pressure the government to carry out a referendum to change the political system.

During a press conference, the coalition said it will push for a popular referendum in light of the differences between the country's presidency and premiership.

"The issue of the referendum (front) is not new, but rather the idea came as a result of the great pain experienced by the political class," said Hossam al-Hami, spokesperson of Sumood, one of the groups in the coalition.

He continued: "We were waiting, after the 2014 (general) elections and the January 2014 constitution, that the country would enter a new phase… and a democratic path that would take root after the Constituent Assembly, and that we would reach a real democratic system."

The Constituent Assembly was a temporary parliament whose task was to draft a new constitution between October 2011 and January 2015.

"But what we noticed over time… is things are complicated and the (political) scene is dispersed, and the parliament is unable to form a majority that can govern and implement… major reforms that the country has been waiting for for decades."

Hami revealed that Somood, the Tunisian League for Citizenship, the General Union of Tunisian Artists, the Tunisia Project Movement and the Bani Watani party are all members of this newly-founded coalition, adding that they will begin gathering signatures for a petition which will in turn call for a nationwide referendum.

Tunisia's constitution was changed in 2014, after former president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali was ousted from power in 2011. 

Currently, the country is in political deadlock due to deepening divisions between the presidency, the premiership, and the parliament.

President Kais Saied had refused a government reshuffle by Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, which in turn was approved by the legislator.

As well as being embroiled in a political crisis and witnessing protests against police brutality, Tunisia is reeling under a harsh economic crisis worsened by Covid-19, which has battered its already-weakened tourism sector vital to its economy.

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