Tunisian President Kais Saied threatened on Monday to suspend the country's membership of the Venice Commission and expel its representatives, after it published a report criticising his plan to hold a referendum on a new constitution.
Said pledged earlier this month to move forward with a proposal for a referendum on July 25 to replace the country's democratic 2014 constitution, ignoring opposition calls to reverse the controversial decision.
The move has added to growing internal and external criticism that he has entrenched one-man rule since he seized control of executive power last summer, dissolved parliament, and began ruling by decree.
The report issued this month by the Venice Commission, a panel of experts of the human rights body Council of Europe, said it was unrealistic to hold a credible referendum in the absence of clear and pre-established rules.
It added that changing the electoral law should be preceded by a "broad consultation of political forces and civil society" in order to reach a consensus.
Saied this month named a law professor to head an advisory committee including law and political science deans, to draft a new constitution for a "new republic," excluding political parties from the restructure of the political system.
Tunisia's main political parties said they will boycott the unilateral restructuring of politics. University deans have also refused to join the panel.
The powerful UGTT union refused to take part in a limited dialogue proposed by Saied as part of the process. It said it would hold a national strike at state firms and public services.
"If necessary, we must end our membership in the Venice Commission, they are persona non grata in Tunisia", Saied said on Monday.
"Blatant interference is unacceptable," he added.
The Venice Commission said in its report that elections for a new parliament should be held before any referendum.
Saied's opponents accuse him of a coup that has undermined the democratic gains of the 2011 revolution that triggered the Arab spring, but he says his moves were legal and needed to save Tunisia from a prolonged political crisis.
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