Members of the Tunisian Constituent Assembly expressed differing views over the announcement yesterday by Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali's spokesman, Lutfi Zaitoun that March 20, 2013 will be the latest date that the next Parliamentary Elections will be scheduled.
While many parties campaigned on limiting the Constituent Assembly to a one-year mandate for drafting Tunisia's new constitution before the October 23rd, 2011 Constituent Assembly election, after being elected, in December the ruling parties voted down legislating a timeline for drafting the constitution and limiting their mandate.
"The governing parties have come to an agreement for the good of the country to have an election in a year," said Ziad Ladhari a member of Ennahda and Constituent Assembly member representing Sousse.
He added that the date is still not certain because elections can only occur after the Constitution is drafted and passed. "We in Ennahda have been talking about an 18-month period for the Constituent Assembly and we want to assure our people and the international community that we will abide by our promise."
It was also unclear to Ladhari exactly what type of elections Tunisia would have, if they would be Parliamentary and Presidential or if the President would be chosen by the elected Parliament because the Constitution outlining the new government has yet to be drafted.
Not all members of the ruling coalition welcomed the announcement.
Samir Ben Amor, a Constituent Assembly member from the Congress For the Republic party (formerly led by current President Moncef Marzouki) said that the announcement was misleading especially because the new constitution has not yet been passed. "Technically speaking, determining a date for new elections before the existence of a new constitution is inappropriate... this is simply political posturing to reassure public opinion and make people believe the government is fulfilling it's objectives," said Ben Amor.
Ibrahim Kassas, a member of the opposition Aritha As-Shabia party argued that the Tunisian people deserve another chance to go to the polls and elect a new government given the fact that almost half the eligible population did not vote last time. "The government members promised that there would be new elections in one year, not everyone was convinced that the last elections would be fair and transparent, that's why half the population did not come out to vote last time."
While Noomane Fehri, a member of the Afek Tounes party representing Nabeul said that the announcement of a timeline for new elections is good news for Tunisia he expressed deep frustration with being a Constituent Assembly member in the opposition.
"Decisions are not made by the whole Constituent Assembly, quite on the contrary, I don't know a single time the Constituent Assembly was consulted for a decision including this one. The three party leaders come together and agree on a policy that they know they have the votes for and then they use the Constituent Assembly to confirm their decision after it's been made."
Fehri complained because in his view, the ruling parties do not have the governing experience to listen to opposition voices and he hoped that the Tunisian public would elect a different government with new elections.
Ahmed Ellali contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2012 Tunisia Live. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.