A new constitution was passed by a referendum in Tunisia on Tuesday, expressing support for a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem.
“We defend the legitimate rights of the peoples who, according to this legitimacy, have the right to decide their own destiny, the first of which is the right of the Palestinian people to their stolen land and the establishment of their state over it after its liberation, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif [Jerusalem] as its capital,” read the preamble of the new constitution.
The new constitution received over 90% support. But only 27.5% of registered voters cast ballots with the vast majority boycotting the referendum.
The new constitution gives almost unlimited power to the president. it comes to replace a constitution that was adopted in 2014 in the wake of Arab Spring that created a hybrid parliamentary system that was highly democratic. The president would also head the armed forces and appoint judges, who would be banned from striking.
The US State Department warned on Tuesday that the new Tunisian constitution could “compromise” human and fundamental rights in the country. State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters that the US is concerned that “weakened checks and balances in Tunisia’s new constitution could compromise the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
The former constitution also expressed support for the Palestinians, saying the state would support “all just liberation movements, at the forefront of which is the movement for the liberation of Palestine.”
President Kais Saied is facing ongoing protests that began in January 2021 in response to alleged police brutality, economic hardship, and the COVID-19 pandemic. One year ago, Saied ordered the military to suspend the parliament and dismissed Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, which triggered an ongoing political crisis. He consequently announced that he will rule by decree and ignore parts of the constitution.
Saied faces high inflation, youth unemployment as high as 40 percent, and a third of the population facing poverty.