x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Tunisian parties to study 'mini-constitution' to pave way of forming a government

The proposals and the internal regulations of the constituent assembly, two vital texts on the road to new institutions, will come before the full membership after fuelling heated debates in commissions.

TUNIS // A Tunisian assembly meets today to discuss leadership proposals embodied in a "mini-constitution" that will open the way to forming a government after the elections of October 23.

The proposals and the internal regulations of the constituent assembly, two vital texts on the road to new institutions, will come before the full membership after fuelling heated debates in commissions.

Ennahda, the Islamist party that came out top in the elections for the assembly, has been accused by the opposition and also by its left-wing partners, the Congress for the Republic (CPR) and Ettakatol, of wanting to take complete control of the country's institutions.

However, two commissions of 22 lawmakers each reached a compromise on Friday and the proposals will be submitted to the vote of the 217 elected members of the assembly today.

The main disagreements concerned the respective powers of the head of state and the head of the government, as well as the means of adopting the north African country's future constitution after the revolution that toppled longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali last January 14.

Under the terms of an understanding between the three allied parties the CPR leader Moncef Marzouki is expected to become president of Tunisia while the deputy leader of Ennahda, Hamadi Jebali, will be prime minister.

According to proposals published in the Tunisian press, the president of the republic, initially deprived of any real power in the first drafts, will regain several prerogatives.

He will notably be tasked with representing the country and outlining its foreign policy in consultation with the prime minister. He will designate the head of government and sign and promulgate laws passed by the constituent assembly. He will also be commander of the armed forces.

The head of the government enjoys broad powers, including the creation of ministries, the definition of their competence and the appointment of senior officials in the administration.

As for the future Tunisian constitution, whose adoption will open the way to general elections and put an end to the transitional period of rule, it should be passed by a two-thirds majority, and if it is not passed after two readings, it will be submitted to a referendum.

The adoption of these articles yesterday will open the way to the election of the president, the same day or later in the week. The new president will then name a head of government, whose choice of a cabinet must win the confidence of the assembly.

The formation of a new government will take place under tense conditions, with a deterioration of the economic and social situation in Tunisia and a deepening rift between "modernists" and "Islamists".

Several hundred demonstrators opposed to extremism and demanding "work, freedom and dignity" have been camping out for several days in front of the constituent assembly building in Tunis.

On Saturday, these liberals faced off with thousands of Islamists waving the Ennahda flag and also the black banners of the hardline Salafist Hizb Tahrir, which has not been legalised. They came to lay claim to their "majority" position in the country.