Tunisia postpones elections

After weeks of contentious debate, Tunisia agreed to move back the date of the country's first election since the overthrow of Ben Ali.

09 June 2011
Tunisia's interim government on Wednesday (June 8th) postponed Constituent Assembly elections, after reaching an accord between political parties.

"We have taken all opinions into consideration and decided to postpone the vote to October 23rd," Interim Prime Minister Béji Caid Essebsi said.

Caid Essebsi confirmed that there were parties opposed to the postponement, including the interim government, but "the important thing is to have free and transparent election in order to protect the reputation of Tunisia and to preserve the bright image of its revolution".

"We basically had two options: either to hold the election on July 24th under the supervision of the interior ministry or hold it on October 23rd and have a free and transparent election," the prime minister said.

More than 80 political parties will compete in the Constituent Assembly elections. The vote will be crucial in deciding who drafts the new constitution for a democratic Tunisia.

The election date has been a source of contention between major political parties, the independent electoral commission and the interim government, which once insisted on the July 24th date.

However, recent negotiations between the varying political parties, the High Commission for the Realisation of Revolutionary Goals, the electoral commission and the government led to an agreement on a new date for the vote, according to Kamel Jendoubi, president of the electoral commission.

"Consultations that took place between all the parties and the announcement of the prime minister come within the calendar that was proposed by the independent electoral commission," Jendoubi said. "I think the October 23rd date is suitable for all parties and they must agree on it for the love of democracy and love of Tunisia."

Yadh Ben Achour, head of the High Commission for the Realisation of Revolutionary Goals, confirmed that the October 23rd date would be satisfactory for all parties, given that it would be materially impossible to hold the election on July 24th.

"We support this date because we will have enough time to secure the necessary material, legal and technical conditions required for holding the election," said Hamma Hammami, Secretary-General of the Communist Workers' Party.

Ettajdid Movement Secretary-General Ahmed Ibrahim said, "The important thing is to hold a transparent and credible election. As political parties, we have to abide by this date and put an end to all exaggerations and accusations and shoulder our own responsibilities for the good of this country."

The most important outcome of the debate was the discussion between political parties, which allowed authorities to reach an agreement acceptable to everyone, according to Abd Waheb Hani, founder of the al-Majd party.

Abd Fattah Mourrou said that the accord necessitated approval of the new date. However, he inquired about the date of announcing the new constitution, suggesting it be January 14th next year.

"We consider the government's position from the election to be encouraging and we will positively respond to it," Ennahda spokesperson Noureddine Bhiri said. Previously, the Islamist party was a proponent of the July 24th date.

The Movement of Socialist Democrats also backed the new date, with party representative Chorki Belaid saying it was a response to the need to hold pluralistic, democratic and transparent elections.

"If this postponement is in the interest of the country and will lead us to democracy, then there is no problem, especially as it will give us enough time to get to know all the political parties and read their programmes so that the election may be fair and give everyone a chance to take part," said Radhouane Bchairi.

© 2011

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