Timeline: Tunisian elections

A look back at the nine months since massive protests toppled Tunisian ruler Ben Ali.


January 14, 2011: After weeks of turmoil, longtime Tunisian ruler Zine el Abidine Ben Ali flees the country by planefor Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi announces that he is assuming the role of interim president under Chapter 56 of the Tunisian constitution.

January 15: The constitutional court, Tunisia’s highest legal authority on constitutional issues, rules that Fouad Mebazaa, the speaker of parliament, should be interim president – not Mohammed Ghannouchi. Mebazaa tasks Ghannouchi with forming a new coalition government.

January 17: Prime Minister Ghannouchi promises to announce a new coalition government. A new “unity” government is announced, but includes several Ben Ali loyalists in key posts – including the defence, interior and foreign ministers – and few opposition members in lesser positions.

On January 18, Tunisians protest  the presence of Ben Ali loyalists in the new coalition government [EPA]

January 18: Unhappy with the line-up of the new government, Tunisians take to the streets in protest. Ghannouchi and Mebazaa resign from Ben Ali’s party, Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD), in a bid to placate the protesters. On the same day, Marcef Manzouki, the leader of the banned Congress for the Republic Party, returns to Tunisia after years of living in exile in Paris.

January 20: All ministers in the interim government quit Ben Ali’s RCD party but remain in their cabinet posts. The central committee of RCD is dissolved, as many of the ministers were also committee members.

January 26: Clashes break out near government offices in Tunis’ old city, where riot police fire tear gas at hundreds of demonstrators.

January 27: Tunisia’s foreign minister, Kamel Morjane, announces his resignation. The prime minister later announces a reshuffle of the cabinet, dropping key ministers who were members Ben Ali’s government.

January 30: After 22 years of exile, Rachid Ghannouchi, leader of banned Islamist party Ennahdha, returns to Tunisia.

February 27: Mohammed Ghannouchi resigns as prime minister, and 84-year-old Beji Caid-Essebsi is named as his replacement.

Tunisian women celebrate the dissolution of the RCD on March 9 [EPA]

March 9: The RCD is dissolved.

April 26: Senior members of RCD who had been active in the party during the last 10 years are banned from participating in the upcoming elections for the constituent assembly, a body tasked with rewriting Tunisia’s constitution and appointing a new government.

May 9: Thirteen people are chosen to serve on the Tunisian Higher Election Authority (ISIE), an independent group overseeing the constituent assembly election.

May 31: Four secular parties unite to form the Democratic Modernist Coalition (PDM).

June 20: Ben Ali and his wife are sentenced in absentia to 35 years in prison for theft and unlawful possession of cash and jewellery.

July 11: Voter registration for the constituent assembly election begins. The registration period was initially to last for a period of three weeks, but is eventually extended to August 14.

July 24: The elections for the constituent assembly were originally scheduled for this date; however, the date was rescheduled for October 23.

July 30: Kamel Jendoubi, president of the Tunisian Higher Election Authority, announces that the voter enrolment process will be extended from August 2 until August 14, so that more voters can register. Thus far, just 1.76 million of an estimated 7.5 million eligible voters have registered.

August 14: Voter registration ends. The Carter Center states  that, according to the ISIE, 3,882,727 Tunisians have registered to vote.

Campaigning for the constituent assembly election begins on October 1 [Reuters]

September 1: Registration begins for political parties and independent lists to place candidates in the October 23 constituent assembly election.

September 7: Registration for political parties and independents ends. Eighty-one parties, and hundreds of independents, are set to run in the constituent assembly election.

September 12: The ISIE forbids political advertising after this date. However, two parties – the PDP and the UPL – continue to advertise after the deadline.

September 15: Twelve Tunisian parties sign an agreement called “Declaration of the Transitional Process”, which states that the parties would respect the ISIE’s ethical code for the election.

Under the terms of this agreement, the constituent assembly will be in power for a maximum period of a year. The interim president and government are to step down immediately after the election, and the constituent assembly is to vote on a new government, which will remain in power until the end of the constituent assembly’s mandate. At this point, according to the pact, Tunisians will go to the polls to directly elect a new government.

October 1: Campaigning begins for the constituent assembly election, to be held on October 23.

October 20: Campaigning ends for the constituent assembly election. Overseas voting for Tunisians living abroad also begins on this day, and will continue until October 22.

October 23: About 4.4 million registered Tunisians head to the polls to begin voting in an historic election.

Source: Al Jazeera


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