Tunisian president excludes parties from preparing new constitution

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TUNIS, May 20 (Reuters) - Tunisian President Kais Saied named a law professor to head an advisory committee to draft a new constitution for a "new republic", the presidency said on Friday, excluding political parties from restructuring the political system.

Saied has consolidated his one-man rule since seizing executive power last summer and dissolving the parliament to rule by decree in moves his foes call a coup.

He has since said he will replace the democratic 2014 constitution with a new constitution via a referendum on July 25 and have new parliamentary elections in December.

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The committee headed by law professor Sadok Belaid consists of deans of Law and Political Sciences. It must submit its report on June 20 to the president, the official gazette said.

In parallel, another committee was established, comprising six national organizations, including the powerful UGTT Labour Union, to submit proposals for reforms. This committee also does not include any political party.

In the first reaction to the president's appointment of an advisory body to prepare a new constitution and propose economic and political reforms, the UGTT said it rejects the proposals.

Saied's opponents accuse him of trying to consolidate one man rule and his actions have been criticized abroad too. He rejects the accusations and says he is not a dictator and wants to change Tunisia after "a decade of ruin".

Western countries have urged a dialogue in which unions, political parties and civil society participate to return Tunisia to a democratic path to help it financially as the country suffers its worst financial crisis.

Saied's consolidation of power has accelerated this year - he replaced the top judicial body and threatened to restrict civil society groups, giving the 64-year-old almost total control.

This month Saied also appointed a new election commission, seizing control of one of the last independent bodies in the North African country and casting doubt on electoral integrity.

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Reporting By Tarek Amara, additional reporting by Lilian Wagdy; editing by Grant McCool

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