Tunisia – Constitution suspended, elections for a constituent assembly

The situation in Tunisia is becoming a little clearer. Here is a brief review.

Following the Jasmin Revolution and the ousting of President Ben Ali, the constitution was in effect suspended and a provisional organisation of power was established. The decree-law officialising this decision was issued on 23 March. So, Tunisia is no longer semi-presidential. The decree-law is available in French and Arabic here.

This decree law also made provision for the election of a constituent assembly that would draft a new Constitution. So, there is no prospect of the 1959 constitution (as subsequently amended) simply being restored.

The elections for the constituent assembly took place on Sunday. There are 217 seats to be filled. There is information about the voting system at Matthew Shugart’s Fruits and Votes blog.

Jeune Afrique is reporting the final result as follows:

Ennahda (Renaissance) – 89
CPR (Congress for the Republic) – 29
Aridha Chaabia (Popular Petition) – 26
Ettakatol (Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties) – 20
Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) – 16
Al Moubadara (Initiative) – 5
Democratic Modernist Pole (PDM) – 5
Afek Tounes (Tunisian Horizons) – 4
Tunisian Workers’ Communist Party (PCOT) – 3
Achab (people’s Movement) – 2
Movement of Social Democrats (MDS) – 2
Others – 16 (1 each)

There are details about the various parties here. Basically, Ennahda is a moderate Islamist party. Most of the other parties are secular.

There are reports on the election at The Monkey Cage here and here.

There has been a lot of debate about what form of government Tunisia should adopt in its new constitution. Generally, Ennahda favours a parliamentary system, whereas some of the secular parties prefer some form of semi-presidentialism or presidentialism.

To me, this situation is puzzling. If there were to be a presidential election, then Ennahda would surely stand the best chance of winning, given the opposition is very divided. If so, it should favour a directly elected president. That said, even though Ennahda will clearly be the largest party in the constituent assembly, it will not have a majority and it will have to negotiate. This could mean, of course, that it might accept a directly elected president and a return to semi-presidentialism. Alternatively, with the strength of Ennahda being evident from Sunday’s election, it is possible that other parties will no longer push for this provision.

In all likelihood, the constitutional process will take a year. I will provide updates when information about the likely form of government becomes clear.

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