Tunisians protest against constitution referendum as opposition grows

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TUNIS, June 18 (Reuters) – Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Tunis on Saturday in opposition to a referendum on a new constitution called by President Kais Saied that would cement his hold on power.

The protest led by Abir Moussi, leader of the Free Constitutional Party, reflected growing opposition to Saied since he seized executive power last year, dissolving parliament and ruling by decree in a move opponents called a coup.

Thousands marched from Bab Souika Square in the capital towards Kasbah Square, waving Tunisian flags and chanting slogans such as “We want to take back our kidnapped country.”

Saied is seeking to overhaul the constitution to give the presidency more powers, against the backdrop of a tanking economy and fears of a public finance crisis. He intends to put the new constitution to a referendum on July 25.

His 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.

However nearly all Tunisia’s political parties have rejected the proposed referendum, along with the powerful UGTT labour union.

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