Tunisia police block protests against Saied referendum

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Tunisian police scuffled with protesters against President Kais Saied on Saturday as around 100 people demonstrated against a planned July referendum.

The police blocked the protesters as they attempted to reach the headquarters of the electoral board whose chief Saied had replaced last month in a further move to extend his control of state institutions.

Some at the protest in the Tunisian capital, organized by five small political parties, held up placards reading “the president’s commission = fraud commission.”

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Saied on July 25 sacked the government and suspended parliament which he later dissolved.

He has laid out plans for a referendum next month on a replacement for a 2014 constitution that had enshrined a mixed parliamentary-presidential system often plagued by deadlock and nepotism.

On April 22, Saied gave himself powers to appoint three of the seven members of the ISIE electoral commission, including the president.

Then last month he appointed former ISIE member Farouk Bouasker to replace Nabil Baffoun, a critic of his July power grab.

Saied’s opponents accuse him of moving toward an autocracy and putting in place a compliant electoral body ahead of the July referendum and parliamentary elections in December.

Many Tunisians however support his moves against a system they say has done little for their quality of life in the decade since a 2011 revolt that toppled President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

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