Tunisians protest proposed constitution; call it “a coup”

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Small but loud demonstrations took place Saturday in the Tunisian capital of Tunis ahead of a referendum Monday on President Kais Saied’s proposed new constitution — a document that critics say helps him legitimize his power grab, which they call “a coup.”

On Saturday, a few hundred people marched on Bourguiba Avenue, the capital’s main artery, to denounce the proposals to change the constitution to augment presidential powers and reduce the role of parliament and the prime minister. In sometimes violent clashes with police, about 10 people were arrested.

Protester Faouzi Ben Brahim told The Associated Press that “people have come together today because they are aware of the dangers of the referendum, which intends to put in place a constitution of an autocratic president who does not recognize or respect institutions and does not intend to be accountable.”

Another protester held a banner reading “No to a constitution of intimidation, no to a constitution of the fait accompli.”

Saied suspended parliament last year and seized broad powers in a move that he said was necessary to “save the country” from a political and economic crisis. This prompted criticism from the opposition, which accuses him of shunning democracy and sliding the North African country toward totalitarianism.

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