New constitution greatly expanding presidential powers is set to take effect following a referendum that an exit poll indicated was easily won by the "yes" side but with a very low turnout of just over 27%.

The lowest turnout of any national election since the 2011 revolution, which triggered the Arab Spring, was 41% in 2019 for the parliament that Saied dissolved.
The lowest turnout of any national election since the 2011 revolution, which triggered the Arab Spring, was 41% in 2019 for the parliament that Saied dissolved. (AFP)

Voters in a referendum in Tunisia have overwhelmingly backed a new constitution giving President Kais Saied nearly total powers but with only over a quarter of eligible voters participating, an exit poll and electoral board said, amid a boycott by opposition parties.

The poll by Sigma Conseil late on Monday said 92.3 percent of voters in the referendum supported the new constitution, which with no minimum participation rate is now set to become law. Turnout was 25 percent, the exit poll showed.

Tunisia's constitutional vote saw at least 27.5 percent turnout, the electoral board said. 

Speaking after polling closed in Tunisia, the board chief Farouk Bouaskar said voters had had a "meeting with history" and that a "very respectable number" had cast ballots.

More powers to Saied

Opposition parties boycotted the referendum, saying it dismantles the democracy Tunisia introduced after its 2011 revolution and could start a slide back towards autocracy.

The new constitution gives the president power over both the government and judiciary while removing checks on his authority and weakening the parliament.

Saied has said his moves were needed to save Tunisia from years of political paralysis and economic stagnation under a 2014 constitution that split power between the parliament and president.

His initial moves against the parliament appeared hugely popular with Tunisians, as thousands flooded the streets to support him, but with little progress in addressing dire economic problems, that support may have waned.

The lowest turnout of any national election since the 2011 revolution, which triggered the Arab Spring, was 41 percent in 2019 for the parliament that Saied has dissolved.

The president's opponents have questioned the integrity of a vote conducted by an electoral commission whose board Saied replaced this year, and with fewer independent observers than for previous Tunisian polls.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies