x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 September 2017

Women's rights, religion issues set to delay Tunisia's constitution

Several issues have proved particularly contentious, such as the role of women in society and religion in politics.

TUNIS //Debate, discussion and a realisation of the complexity of the task are likely to delay a new constitution for Tunisia for months after its hoped-for completion date of October this year, officials and analysts said.

As committees try to write new rules to govern the country, the first of several to topple autocratic leaders in last year's wave of uprisings, Habib Kheder, the official co-ordinating the constitution, told Tunisian media the document may be ready in February of next year.

Some groups that are critical of the interim government, led by the moderate Islamists Ennahda, are likely to be dismayed, because a delay in the constitution will delay the election of a parliament with full powers.

"Everyone's fed up with the interim government and people are waiting for elections," said Rachida Ennaifer, a constitutional academic in Tunis. But, she added, completion in October this year was unrealistic. "I think the constitution will not be voted or ratified until the end of next year," she said.

The delay is not necessarily a bad thing, argued Zaid Al Ali, who works on Arab constitutions at the intergovernmental organisation, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.

Several issues have proved particularly contentious, such as the role of women in society and religion in politics.

Other issues, such as legislation to limit Tunisia's legendary corruption, need to be thrashed out, he said. "I think the more time they have, and the more they get it right, that's fine with me," he said, pointing out that South Africa and Kenya took several years to write constitutions that are generally considered to function well.

afordham@thenational.ae