L’État C’est Qaïs
One year after Tunisia’s president, Qaïs Saied, destroyed the country’s constitution in order to save it, he has a new document to present to voters for their approval on July 25. If it passes, the new constitution will serve the short-term goal of ensuring that the authority he seized a year ago is concentrated in his hands. Its adoption will also give a formal legal form to the presidential dictatorship.
The first-person singular is appropriate: This is one man’s document. There was a process of sorts in which a group of experts was supposed to draft a new constitution after listening to various opinions. This involved widely criticized steps that sparked opposition and boycotts, since the process seemed rigged and was a far cry from the protracted democratic process that produced the 2014 constitution. But even this truncated group found its work shunted aside. The proposal it formulated was quietly discarded in favor of a very different document. Nobody knows who wrote the final draft, but it appears to be a hasty attempt to serve the will of Saied, who happens to be a constitutional law professor. If the president did not take pen to paper himself, a small group close to him likely did so. And this anonymous product is now before Tunisians for an up-or-down vote.