TUNISIA NATIONWIDE STRIKE

By Paul Ndiho

Tunisians took part in a demonstration organized by the National Salvation Front, a coalition of opposition parties and civil society groups, to protest President Kais Saied and an upcoming July 25 constitutional referendum. Paul Ndiho has more.

Hundreds protested in Tunis Sunday on day two of protests against a constitutional referendum called by President Kais Saied that his opponents say is likely to cement his hold on power.

The Salvation Front, a coalition including the moderate Islamist Ennahda, the largest party in a parliament that Saied dissolved in March, organized the demonstration.

It followed a similar protest on Saturday, called by the Free Constitutional Party over the referendum, and a strike on Thursday by a powerful labor union over government economic reform plans, which brought much of the county to a standstill.

The president’s supporters say he is standing up to elite forces whose bungling and corruption have condemned Tunisia to a decade of political paralysis and economic stagnation.

The country’s main political parties say they will boycott the referendum. But, opposition to Saied remains fragmented, as shown by the separate demonstrations at the weekend.

Protesters on Sunday marched through central Tunis, watched by a heavy police presence. Meanwhile, on Saturday, the judges in Tunisia extended their national strike for a third week in protest against a decision by Saied to sack 57 judges on June 1.

President Saied accused them of corruption and protecting terrorists – charges that the Tunisian Judges’ Association says were mainly politically motivated.

Saied’s moves have heightened accusations at home and abroad that he has consolidated one-person rule after assuming executive powers last summer and setting aside the 2014 constitution to rule by decree.

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