TUNIS (Reuters) – Hundreds demonstrated in Tunis on Sunday in a second day of protest against a constitutional referendum called by President Kais Saied that his opponents said would tighten his grip on power.

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

This followed a similar protest by the Free Constitutional Party on Saturday over the referendum and a strike on Thursday by a powerful union against the government’s 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 clumsiness and corruption have condemned Tunisia to a decade of political paralysis and economic stagnation.

Political cartoons about world leaders

The head of the country’s constitution committee said on Saturday he would hand over the new draft of what he described as a democratic constitution to the president on Monday, ahead of the July 25 referendum.

The country’s main political parties say they will boycott the plebiscite. But opposition to Saied remains fragmented, as separate protests over the weekend show.

On Sunday, protesters marched through central Tunis to Avenue Habib Bourguiba, watched by a heavy police presence.

“Saied has to go… People on the streets are against you Saied all the time,” activist Chaima Issa told Reuters. “The UGTT (union) has gone on strike, and the magistrates are demonstrating. Do you want to govern a people who reject you?”

Tunisian judges on Saturday extended their nationwide strike for a third week to protest Saied’s decision to sack 57 judges on June 1.

The president accused them of corruption and protecting terrorists – charges which the Association of Tunisian Judges said were primarily politically motivated.

Saied’s move bolstered accusations at home and abroad that he has consolidated one-man power after assuming executive powers last summer and setting aside the 2014 constitution to rule by decree.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.