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Shortcomings of the "national consultation" and surrounded by a terrible communication silence

Shortcomings of the “national consultation” and surrounded by a terrible communication silence

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The issue of the “national consultation” announced by the President of the Republic, Kais Saied, in mid-December 2021, sparked mixed reactions, between rejecting it, on the one hand, and welcoming it, on the other hand, as a “positive step towards getting out of the exceptional situation.”

In this regard, the sociologist, Sami Nasr, considered, in an interview with the Tunis Africa News Agency, that “returning to the people is always a good thing,” noting that this consultation (or the popular referendum) was presented as an alternative to dialogue between various politicians and social parties. in Tunisia.

On December 13, the Head of State announced a timetable for exiting the “exceptional measures” he had taken since July 25, 2021, in accordance with the activation of Chapter 80 of the Constitution. The timetable includes, in particular, organizing a referendum on July 25, 2022, on amending the constitution, and holding legislative elections on December 17, 2022, stressing that the amendments to the constitution will come after a “popular” consultation via the Internet, starting in January.

The Minister of Communication Technologies, Nizar Naji, had recently announced that the electronic platform intended for the purpose of consulting citizens, will be available to everyone on January 15 and until March 20.

He said that the platform includes 6 axes related to “electoral and political,” “economic and financial,” “social,” “educational and cultural,” as well as “health,” and “development and digital transition.”

Professor of Sociology, Sami Nasr, noted, in a reading of the initial version of this consultation, that what the Presidency of the Republic presented is closer to a “sociological field study” than to a referendum or popular consultation, stressing that this field research, came to almost all the axes that trouble Tunisians, However, its “biggest flaw” (i.e., consultation), is that it is not accompanied by a strong and tightly regulated communication policy, to promote it and urge participation in it, “especially since citizen participation remains optional and it is possible, therefore, that this participation is weak or below expectations and does not reflect all opinions and aspirations.” .

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He continued, saying that “academic gaps” marred this consultation, as the interrogation was rather long, which is feared that the interrogator’s focus was not guaranteed, to the same extent, from beginning to end, noting in this context that the person who prepared or prepared this consultation (a party that did not disclose it) Presidency of the Republic), “It seems that he deliberately preceded the political issue, in order to ensure the focus of the recipient with it, at the expense of the rest of the interlocutors, which reveals the priorities of its authors, as we discover the degree of importance of the interlocutors according to the priority of their arrangement in the interrogation.”

As for the methodology of the questions, the sociologist noted that “some questions are lacking in precision and specificity, which makes the answer may be loose and not lead to the desired result,” as some themes included the hypothesis of “one possible answer” (in reference to the possibility of including several answers), making these answers loose, “while more specificity was supposed”, by putting “only one answer”, in his opinion.

He also indicated that it was also important to resort to open answers by making an “other choice”, especially with regard to reforms, noting that extrapolating different opinions is very important in such studies, or in this case, the national consultation (as the presidency wanted The Republic called it), explaining that if the respondents’ responses in the “other choice” field exceed 2% of the answers, those answers become among the options presented and are not marginal. He added that when the author of the study determines the options, it is as if he already knows the answer.

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In this regard, Professor Sami Nasr gave an example of this, as stated in the axis of the judiciary, “as the interrogation proceeded from a ready-made hypothesis that does not allow the expression of opinion freely.”

After emphasizing the impact of the absence of a communicative policy on the quality of consultation, the sociologist said that some axes remain “incomprehensible to broad groups of the people,” such as the axis of management, digitization and technology, “especially with the presence of significant illiteracy rates among the Tunisian people.” Which refers again to the “big shortcoming” of this consultation, as it was possible to discuss these issues through the media and in various media and open a public discussion about them and explain them to people, “even if they received advice, they would be aware of the issues that they are about answer them,” stressing that “it was assumed that there should be a major and tight communication policy, so that the consultation would be effective.”

On the other hand, the sociologist, Sami Nasr, noted that the people in charge of this consultation did not disclose whether a team was formed to carry out direct interrogations, with regard to illiterate people, “so that their opinions would not be affected and directed towards specific answers.”

He stated that extrapolating the opinions of the people and carrying out field studies remains one of the finest mechanisms adopted by countries, “but we must strive to provide guarantees of success,” noting that the consultation being offered now in Tunisia “cannot in any way replace dialogue”, especially since it It came “fraught with ambiguity”, from his point of view, “since it was not announced who prepared it or how oversight would accompany its work”, in addition to placing it under a “terrible communication silence”, despite its great importance, “since it is assumed that it will determine the future of country”.

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He considered that these shortcomings “can greatly affect the results of the study, despite its importance, as a sophisticated mechanism for knowing the opinions of different groups of people on life issues.”

It is noteworthy that the Minister of Communication Technologies, Nizar Naji, had stated that participation in the consultation will be through a hidden identity on the platform that contains 6 major axes (each axis includes 5 questions), with a space for free expression, in order to motivate citizens to turn out heavily on these National advisory.