Tunisia’s constituent assembly to convene on November 22

November 11, 2011

Tunisia’s constituent assembly will convene for the first time on November 22, one month after its 217 members were elected in the country’s first true multiparty elections.

Sources said that the final official results will be announced on Monday by Kamal Jendoubi, the chairman of the Independent High Commission for the Elections, and that the interim president will call for the meeting of the assembly whose members will choose a prime minister and a president and will draft a constitution for the country.

Al Nahda, a moderate Islamist party that was banned for decades and allowed only in March, dominated the October 23 elections, winning more than 41 per cent of the votes.

It is now negotiating with the first runner up, the Congress for the Republic whose tally was 29 and with the Attakattol, a centre-left party, winner of 17 seats, for the top positions in the country and the names of the government ministers expected to remain in power for one year until new elections are held.

However, in the negotiations the trio has been dodging the Popular Petition, an emerging force that secured the third position in the polls with 26 seats, well ahead of established leftist parties whose dismal performance in the national elections came as a shock to members and analysts.

The Popular Petition has been accused of shady deals with former members of the RCD, the party of Zine Al Abidine Bin Ali, the ousted president who ruled Tunisia for 23 years before he fled the country on January 14.
However, the Popular Petition has rejected the claims and attributed its success to the confidence of the Tunisian people in its political programme that promised free health care and plenty of jobs for the unemployed.

Its leader Mohammad Heshemi Hamdi, the London-based owner of Al Mustaqilla TV, said that he would return home to Tunisia on Saturday amid expectations that his presence in the country could stir further standoffs with the winning parties.

“If they do not accept us into the negotiations, we will form the core of the opposition to the government,” Hamdi is reported to have said.

According to sources close to the talks, Al Nahda has been calling for a government of national unity while Attakattol wants a government of national interests.

The two parties could not reach an agreement either on the name of the next president whose role will be largely informal.

Al Nahda will have the post of prime minister in line with its ideology for a parliamentary system and has already fronted its secretary general Hamadi Jebali for the position. The presidency will be largely ceremonial, it said.

However, the other two parties insist on a presidential system that will give some powers to the president who can be elected only twice to a four-year-term, although they do converge with Al Nahda on the right of the winning party in the national elections to form the government.

According to the sources, Al Nahda wants to keep the current defence minister Abdul Kareem Al Zubaidi who is credited with preserving law and order following an ominous period of security unrest in the country. The party is also pushing for keeping the finance minister in his post.

Several names have been suggested to be the next president, including Munsif Marzouki, the leader of the Congress for the Republic, and Mustafa Bin Jaafar, the leader of Attakattol, but no confirmation has been made yet.

The national debate after the Eid Al Adha has been dominated by the refusal of Dr Souad Abdul Rahim, the unveiled woman member of Al Nahda who won a seat in Tunis II, to grant single mothers a monthly financial assistance as suggested by some activists.

Reacting to claims by a France-based Tunisian on a French radio that single mothers should be protected and given financial aid, Souad, a pharmacist by formation, said that only rape victims should be entitled to protection under the law.

“I am ashamed of those who try to make excuses for people who have sinned” Souad said. ”There is no room for full and absolute freedom. Freedom should be based on respect for existing customs, traditions and laws.”

She said that granting monthly financial assistance to single mothers would encourage women to having babies outside marriage.

“We cannot impose alien concepts on the Tunisian society. We do have issues, and we should seek to address the situation morally. We cannot work on legitimising the existence of single mothers in Tunisia. We should preserve our high morals and not wade into issues that are alien to our culture. The law is clear and applies to both men and women. We cannot reward women or men who deliberately choose to break the law. Illegitimacy is not a choice. It is like promulgating a law to protect those who consume drugs,” she said.




About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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