Tunisia referendum: The final ‘Arab Spring’ democracy is dangling by a thread


Editor’s Be aware: A model of this story first appeared in CNN’s In the meantime within the Center East publication, a three-times-a-week look contained in the area’s greatest tales. Sign up here.

Abu Dhabi, UAE

As soon as considered the only real democracy to have emerged from the mass protests of the Arab Spring in 2011, Tunisia on Tuesday handed a newly minted structure that analysts concern could possibly be the ultimate nail within the coffin of its democratic period.

With no minimal voter threshold, solely 30.5% of eligible voters took half in Monday’s ballot, based on the latest figures by the electoral commission, with roughly 95% of those that participated voting ‘sure.’

Analysts say {that a} new structure could be the ultimate blow to the social and political good points made by the North African nation for the reason that Arab Spring, setting the nation on a path that will probably be tough to return from.

“We’ll set up a brand new republic that’s totally different from the one we’ve had during the last ten years,” Tunisian President Kais Saied said Monday on state TV after casting his vote.

When waves of protest rocked the area 12 years in the past, engulfing Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Syria and Yemen, Tunisia quickly rose as the only real success story to emerge from the Arab Spring.

Egypt and Algeria quickly got here beneath strict navy rule; critics say freedoms and rights have since regressed in each nations. In the meantime Syria, Libya and Yemen plunged into bloody civil wars. To this present day they continue to be bitterly divided and wracked by grueling poverty.

Nevertheless, progress within the former French colony has additionally stalled.

Final summer time, confronted with anti-government protests following a spike in Covid-19 instances and rising anger over power political dysfunction and financial malaise, Saied dissolved the 2014 structure and started ruling by decree.

Saied has defended his decrees, saying they’re pushed by a must “right the course of the revolution” and to rid the nation of corruption. Amongst Saied’s targets was the average Islamist Ennahda social gathering, whose chief Rached Ghannouchi stays beneath investigation for cash laundering (Ghannouchi denies the allegations, which he has denounced as politically motivated).

Ennahda, a significant political participant within the nation for the reason that Arab Spring, has lately come beneath criticism for its central roles in Tunisia’s years of financial and political disaster.

Some initially celebrated the choice, with enormous crowds gathering in his help in Tunis and different cities, however the opposition has known as Saied’s transfer a coup.

Analysts say the brand new structure would eradicate the final construction remaining from the nation’s days of democracy.

Tunisia’s 2014 structure was “the crowning achievement of Tunisia’s democratic period,” stated Monica Marks, professor of Center East politics at New York College Abu Dhabi, including that it represented the onerous work accomplished within the “post-2011 political transition away from dictatorship.”

In Could, Saied appointed a “Nationwide Consultative Fee for a New Republic,” and tasked it with drafting a brand new structure – to be voted on in immediately’s referendum.

Published in the state gazette on June 30, the draft structure alarmed activists and rights watchdogs, who say it limits the affect of parliament and basically indicators off on one-man rule.

“There isn’t any significant separation of powers,” Marks advised CNN.

“There isn’t any oversight between branches of presidency and there’s no presidential accountability,” she added.

Among the many constitutional options that concern critics are articles which set out that the federal government solutions to the president, that the president appoints the pinnacle of presidency, and that the president can – at any level – dismiss the federal government or its members. The draft structure additionally makes it tougher for parliament to cross a no-confidence vote within the authorities.

Whereas rights and freedoms are promised safety, as beneath the prevailing structure, an array of different points are sounding alarm bells.

The shortage of stability of energy and the “absence of checks and balances” within the new draft structure are an excellent fear, based on Aymen Bessalah, applications coordinator for Human Rights at Al Bawsala, a non-profit group based in 2011 by Tunisian activists.

“These are similarities to the 1959 structure,” Bessalah advised CNN, referring to a earlier model that granted sweeping powers to the president.

“He has giant and highly effective government powers, and judicial independence is just not assured,” Bessalah added.

Different articles grant the president government authority to nominate senior officers, each civil and navy, to take “distinctive measures” within the case of risks to nationwide safety, and to rule by decree till a newly-elected parliament takes workplace.

Whereas an amended draft of the brand new structure was printed on July 8, it solely included minor modifications and stored the president’s proposed powers in place, analysts say.

A number of political events have already rejected the July 25 referendum, and Tunisia’s highly effective labor union (UGGT), an influential group with greater than one million members, branded Saied’s structure a risk to democracy however stated it will permit its members to vote.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Nationwide Salvation Entrance, Tunisia’s opposition coalition, reiterated its rejection of the referendum.

“The proposed draft dismantles lots of the safeguards supplied in Tunisia’s post-revolution structure and fails to supply institutional ensures for human rights,” stated Heba Morayef, Amnesty Worldwide’s regional director for the Center East and North Africa, including that it sends “a chilling message” and units Tunisian efforts again by years.

Tunisian authorities didn’t reply to CNN’s request for touch upon both the draft structure or the federal government’s plans to safeguard freedoms and rights ought to the referendum cross.

A sequence of protests and strikes came about within the capital Tunis forward of Monday’s referendum.

“This hyper-presidential system is a step again and will probably be tough to get better from, a minimum of on the short-term,” stated Bessalah, including that when the brand new structure is authorized – as many count on it is going to be – a crackdown on freedoms is prone to comply with.

“[The referendum] is one extraordinarily vital occasion in a protracted, steady technique of Kais Saied’s dictatorial consolidation,” stated Marks. “That’s the actual motive why it’s terrifying.”

Russia’s Lavrov visits Egypt, reassures Cairo of continued Russian grain provides

Russia’s International Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Egypt on Sunday, the place he reassured the North African nation of continued Russian grain provides.

  • Background: “We reaffirmed the dedication of Russian grain exporters to fulfill all their commitments,” Lavrov stated in a press convention with Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shukri, Reuters reported. Final week, Ukraine and Russia agreed on a deal that will permit the resumption of grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, which Russia has been blockading for the reason that begin of the warfare. However uncertainty stays – lower than 24 hours after the deal was signed, two sea-launched Russian Kalibr cruise missiles slammed into the harbor in Odesa.
  • Why it issues: One of many world’s high wheat importers, Egypt purchased 80% of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine final 12 months. Egypt has continued to purchase wheat from Russia throughout the warfare, but it surely has been impacted by rising costs and international disruption. In an effort to make up for some shortages, Egypt has sought to purchase grain from different sources and capped bread costs at house.

Israel’s Lapid warns towards transfer to dissolve Russian department of Jewish Company

Israel’s Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Sunday stated that Russia’s transfer to dissolve the native department of the Jewish Company, a non-profit group that promotes and helps Jews to migrate to Israel, could be a critical improvement affecting relations between the 2 nations.

  • Background: Russia’s Justice Ministry requested the dissolution of the Russian workplace of the Jerusalem-based Company earlier this month and a court docket listening to is about to happen on Thursday. The Ministry has not given particulars of why it’s searching for the transfer, but it surely comes just some weeks after Lapid changed Naftali Bennett as Israeli premier. In his earlier place of International Minister, Lapid had been one of the vital outspoken Israeli leaders in criticizing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • Why it issues: In a doable signal the Kremlin could be unwilling to hearken to Israel’s considerations, by Sunday night Russia was but to approve an Israeli authorities request to ship a group to Moscow for talks on the problem. As well as, Israel will probably be cautious of upsetting Russia an excessive amount of as a result of it wants Moscow’s tacit approval to maintain putting Iranian targets in Syria.

Iran carries out first public execution in two years

Iran publicly executed a 28-year-old man on Saturday, its first in two years, based on the Norway-based Iran Human Rights group (IHRNGO). Iman Sabzikar was convicted of killing a police officer in February 2022 within the southern metropolis of Shiraz, state information company IRNA reported.

  • Background: Sabzikar’s sentence was upheld by Iran’s Supreme Courtroom Saturday morning, IRNA stated. His was the primary public execution in Iran for the reason that begin of the Covid-19 pandemic. Iranian authorities have executed a minimum of 168 individuals within the first 5 months of 2022, a rise from the 110 individuals executed in the identical time final 12 months, IHRNGO reported in June.
  • Why it issues: The IHRNGO denounced the observe as “medieval” and known as for worldwide condemnation. The human rights group known as Sabzikar’s public execution a “brutal punishment … meant to scare and intimidate individuals from protesting.”

The signing of a deal between Russia and Ukraine – mediated by Turkey and the UN – in Istanbul on Friday was a momentous occasion aimed toward addressing international meals shortages. The deal, if it sticks, would launch tens of millions of tons of trapped Ukrainian grain to international markets, a lot of which is desperately wanted within the Center East and Africa.

“As we speak I really feel I’m residing most likely a very powerful day of my tenure,” UN Secretary-Normal Antonio Guterres advised CNN’s Becky Anderson Friday.

Watch the report right here:

Yasmina Zaytoun is crowned Miss Lebanon 2022.

Lebanon has a brand new magnificence queen for the primary time in 4 years. 20-year-old Yasmina Zaytoun was topped Miss Lebanon 2022 on Sunday and can signify her nation on the Miss World and Miss Universe competitions later this 12 months.

The journalism scholar is in her third 12 months at Notre Dame College – Louaize, close to the capital Beirut, based on the organizers. She wrote on her Instagram account after the win: “I did it.”

It’s the primary time Lebanon has held the pageant since 2018, after an financial collapse in October 2019 that has seen its poverty ranges soar, medicines all however disappear from pharmacies, and electrical energy provides dwindle. Based on some United Nations estimates, 80% of the inhabitants resides in poverty.

Organizers hope the pageant will assist increase tourism within the nation, which has struggled due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the financial turmoil; they stated the occasion’s “message is everlasting hope for Lebanon’s rise.”

To mark its return, organizers used a play on phrases because the official slogan of this 12 months’s competitors – #WeMissLebanon. One other symbolic gesture was internet hosting the occasion on the Discussion board De Beyrouth – an iconic venue that was badly broken after the 2020 Beirut port blast, which devastated giant elements of town.

By Eoin McSweeney

Lebanese basketball player Wael Arakji wins the MVP award in the final of the FIBA Asia Cup, after he finished with 28 points. His team beat Jordan and China in their run to the final, but lost to Australia 75-73.

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