Tunisia agrees content of new constitution

Assembly due to fully ratify charter, three years after fall of Ben Ali in first "Arab Spring" uprising.

Last updated: 24 Jan 2014 18:03
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Tunisia's National Assembly approved all articles on the long-delayed new charter [AFP]

Tunisia's national assembly has approved the final articles of the country's new constitution, three years after an uprising against autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali inspired a wave of Arab revolts.

The vote to adopt the new charter has been delayed for a day until Sunday, said Karima Souid, information officer at the constituent assembly.

The plenary session was set for 4:00pm local time (1500 GMT) on Sunday, Souid, who is also an MP, told AFP news agency.

"Finally, we have reached this moment," Assembly President Mustapha Ben Jaafar said on Thursday, as deputies chanted the national anthem in the assembly chamber in Tunis.

Finally, we have reached this moment.

Mustapha Ben Jaafar, Tunisian assembly president

Following their 2011 nationwide uprising, Tunisia is close to full democracy after months of acrimony gave way to a compromise between ruling Islamists and secular leaders that contrasts sharply with upheaval in Libya and Egypt.

Tunisia's ruling Islamist party Ennahda stepped down in an agreement with opponents to break the deadlock and make way for a technocrat administration to govern until new presidential elections later this year.

The new prime minister, Mehdi Jomaa has promised to appoint a non-political cabinet once the constitution is approved. But his government must decide on economic reforms and tackle the threat of Islamist armed groups.

A newly appointed election committee has yet to decide on a date for the presidential vote.

Mostly applauded for its modernity, the new constitution had been delayed by political deadlock as Islamists and opposition parties argued over the role of Islam in one of the most secular Arab countries.

Nevertheless, challenges remain to ensure the articles in the new constitution are adhered to.

"I am trying to figure out what are the next challenges. All the work left for the human rights activists in Tunisia. They will have to fight in order to ensure the human rights commitments in this constitution and to prevent articles that do not comply with human rights to be applied," said Amira Yahyaoui, President of a watchdog monitoring the National Constituent Assembly (NCA).

Mehrzia Laabidi, a member of Ennahda and vice-president of the NCA, was pleased that the new constitution was approved with a strong backing from MPs.


"It's an indescribable feeling because we finished the constitution. We did not only vote but also we voted at least with 145 MPs present. This augurs well. I hope this constitution will be voted by more than two thirds, why not with 90 percent of the Assembly," she said.

"On Saturday, we'll have a session to approve the constitution and then Monday, another festive session to sign the constitution of the revolution," said Ennahda member Badredine Abd Kefi.

Tunisia's new charter and the North African country's compromise between Islamist and secular leaders is seen as an example of political transition after the 2011 revolts. 


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