By Tarek Amara
TUNIS - Tunisia's political parties pledged to fight President Kais Saied's decision to exclude them from key political reforms including the drafting of a new constitution, accusing him of seeking to consolidate autocratic rule.
Saied, who took executive power last summer and dissolved parliament to rule by decree, has since said he will replace the democratic 2014 constitution with a new constitution via a July 25 referendum and hold new parliamentary elections in December.
On Friday, he named a law professor to head an advisory committee of legal and political science experts to draft the new constitution for a "new republic", excluding political parties from the process.
The National Salvation Front, an umbrella for several parties and activists including Ennahda, Heart of Tunisia, Karama and the Citizens Against the Coup coalition, decried the move as another dangerous step towards entrenching one-man rule.
"We will face the new step of his autocratic rule with protests in streets and by uniting the opposition front to overthrow the coup," Ennahda official Riadh Chaibi told Reuters.
Saied denies his opponents' accusations that he staged a coup to seize power, saying his intervention was legal and necessary to save Tunisia from years of political paralysis and economic stagnation at the hands of a corrupt, self-serving elite who had taken control of government.
The president has nonetheless attracted broad opposition across Tunisia's political spectrum.
The Free Constitutional Party, whose leader Abir Moussi is a supporter of the late autocratic president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and a bitter foe of Ennahda, also rejected the move to exclude parties from the drafting of a new constitution and other reforms. It called for a mass protest on June 18.
"What is happening is a dictatorship but we will not leave Tunisia hostage in Saied hands," Moussi said.
In a joint statement, the Attayar, Republican and Ettakatol parties called on parties, civil society and national leaders to confront "this farce and overthrow the coup".