Nikki Haley, the closest rival to former President Donald Trump, and Indian American entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy are expected to spar with each other in the fourth GOP-sponsored presidential debate at the University of Alabama on Tuesday night as former ex-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is expected to hold his own on his anti-Trump stance.
More than eleven years after the Arab Spring convulsed Tunisia ~ this swathe of the AfroArab world has seen a swing-back to monolithic rule. Voters in a referendum overwhelmingly backed a new Constitution that gives President Kais Saied nearly total powers. An estimated 92.3 per cent of voters supported the new Constitution, which ~ with no minimum participation rate requirement ~ is now set to become law. The turnout was 25 per cent when voting concluded on Tuesday. The referendum was faced with a national boycott campaign, with many voters and opposition parties snubbing the vote in order not to legitimise a process they perceive as enabling a return to dictatorial rule. According to Tunisia’s ISIE election authority, more than 1.9 million people have voted in the referendum. The National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists said some reporters were prevented from covering the vote inside certain polling stations, while data regarding the progress of the ballot was withheld from others.
The Tunisian Association for Integrity and Democracy of Elections, a non-governmental organisation also known as ATIDE, said several observers were prevented from carrying out their mission of observing and reporting on the referendum in various voting centres. In recommendations published on its official Facebook page, ATIDE urged the Election Commission to quickly intervene and validate these observers’ accreditation certificates and allow them to perform their supervisory role. It is hard not to wonder whether the referendum was as contrived as it was shambolic. Five opposition parties have accused President Saied of breaching the rule of electoral silence by attacking his opponents when voting was taking place. In a joint statement, the five parties affiliated with a national campaign to boycott the referendum criticised the President’s speech, which he delivered on Monday, as propaganda.
The parties also criticised the Electoral Commission ~ accusing it of remaining silent on reports of violations ~ which they say is proof that the entity lacks real independence. Indeed, interest in voting has fallen in Tunisia, which recorded 62.9 per cent voter turnout in 2014 during the country’s first legislative elections following the Arab Spring upheaval. There were voters who did not believe that the tryst with democracy in Tunisia changes anything. As one voter succinctly put it, “It is not like Europe here, there is no real democracy in Tunisia. I want a real democracy, but I don’t see it here. Everything is bad here, [main opposition] Ennadha is bad and so is [President] Kais Saied.”
Many Tunisians are concerned that the new Constitution will consolidate executive, legislative, and judicial powers in the hands of the President. The opposition says this Constitution will take Tunisia back to a “dictatorship”. Saied’s supporters are keen for this Constitution to be implemented and are expecting him to make radical changes to improve the country, which is still embroiled in a terrible economic crisis. That crisis might persist for some time yet.